Is it just the middle classes who want a seven-day NHS?

Feb 22, 2013

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."

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...beggars belief! This "sacred cow" of the NHS - beyond all reproach and beyond any accountability - seems to think that it exists for the benefit of its own staff. Is this the principle on which this (once) proud organization was founded?

It is very fortunate that our other emergency services (fire, police, ambulance, life boat crews etc) take (as yet) a different view towards their responsibilities and raisons d'etre.

I am sure that our armed forces will read of this in utter disbelief - perhaps we could persuade the Taliban, et al, to take a break at weekends too!,

I'll try not to die on a weekend. God forbid I'd involve Dr's Nurses maybe a porter or two and a mortician! Mind you, ambulance staff always seem to be there!

...makes sense Dave!

I'm the manager of a nursing home. Prior to that l managed a centre for homeless people. Both operate 24/7. why is it so difficult for the NHS?

It should be remembered that a major hospital has in the region of £20 to £30mm of capital equipment in operating theatres, imaging scanners, radiotheraphy equipment etc, which should be used 24/7 to get the maximum ecconomic benefit. No private sector organisation could affort to have such equipment idle 60% of available time. Also the recent Dr Foster report stated that mortality rates were significantly higher in many hospitals at weekends because many facilities were not available. From a full economic cost perspective the NHS cannot afford to have all facilities availble and staffed 24/7. The NHS has to change it's culture to reflect patients needs over that of the staff, and develope a little commercial acumen for the benefit of the tax payers
Lets start putting the patient first!!!!

...100% agree with you David!

Helen - I am afraid that the NHS does not feel that it has any particular duty of care towards patients any more - the staff unions have, effectively, taken over the body corporate; granted, there are still SOME examples of excellent care and "outcomes" to be found in the NHS but, on the whole, it seems this, once fine, body has lost sight of its objectives - ie PATIENT care.

Whether or not this decline is due to "management" and the "target culture" is a matter for conjecture - but the Hippocratic Oath is taking a bit of a battering at the moment.

I think running the NHS 24/7 is an excellent idea provided Sir Bruce Keogh comes up with plans for beds and for funds to pay the staff
As it is the cash strapped NHS Trusts are closing wards in the name of reconfiguration, elective operations get cancelled due to lack of beds especially during winter and with many hospitals trying to cut staff where will the money come from?
It is silly to compare hospitals to Tescos as it is silly to compare it to schools
Has Sir Bruce Keogh ever gone to Tescos after 11 pm?

It should be noted that those of us who work in emergency departments have been providing as much senior (ie consultant) out of hours cover as our contracts will allow for some time now. There are several inpatient specialties which provide good consultant cover out of hours for emergencies, but many which are not funded to do so. Money should be diverted to provide good emergency cover before we start talking about elective (ie planned) services out of hours.