Is it just the middle classes who want a seven-day NHS?
Doctors' union claims a weekend health service is 'catering for the convenience of the middle class'
THE DOCTORS' union has riled members of the public after attacking plans to offer a seven-day hospital service, saying the NHS has more urgent priorities than "catering for the convenience of the middle class" at weekends.
Responding to proposals from the Department of Health that the NHS should run seven days a week, Paul Flynn, chairman of the British Medical Association consultants' committee, warned that standards would fall and costs would rise.
In an article for the British Medical Journal, he pointed out that schools and many businesses do not open at weekends and said: "Many NHS providers are already in dire financial positions ... It is inconceivable that they will be able to staff operating theatres and clinics seven days a week."
Flynn also said he feared that an entirely seven-day NHS is "catering for the convenience of the middle class and not the needs of those who are the greatest users of the NHS".
Members of the public quickly took issue.
"Bit clumsy for Paul Flynn to compare hospitals to schools," tweeted Alison Giles, who runs Our Life, a community engagement service. "And same top consultant dares suggest public don't want weekend service. What world does he inhabit?"
Readers of The Times took to the paper’s website to comment. "'Catering for the convenience of the middle class'," wrote one reader. "You mean catering for vast majority of people who work 50 - 60 hours a week for 40 years to pay for the NHS and its doctors? God forbid you cater to them. What an awful thought."
Another wrote: "Presumably he is saying that the middle-class do not go for medical treatment during the week because they are working... the 'middle class' is the new 'working class'?"
One reader suggested: "Maybe the police and fire services could only work Monday to Friday as well."
In a head-to-head article in the BMJ, Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS medical director, argued that a weekend service would "improve outcomes" and be "more patient focused".
Keogh said a seven-day health service would enable the NHS to "be truly patient centred for the whole of the week, rather than two thirds of it, and we could improve access, shorten diagnostic response times, shorten hospital stay, and improve training."