Seven-day care ‘will mean hospital closures and mergers'
Warning comes as British Medical Association softens its opposition to round-the-clock care
MORE hospital closures and mergers are needed if patients want "all-singing, all-dancing" round-the-clock care, the head of the NHS seven-day working review has warned.
Norman Williams, who is leading efforts by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges to create a seven-day service, has said the NHS must be honest about the trade-off between local hospitals and "super deluxe" care.
Williams told The Times that patients in rural areas might opt to keep their local hospital open and forgo a round-the-clock service, while patients in cities might choose to close some units to enable specialist care at weekends.
"There's no question: for a smaller hospital at the moment, it will be very difficult to deliver that all-singing, all-dancing seven-day care. That's why you have to take into consideration a degree of centralisation. We're probably not being bold enough," he said.
Williams urged GPs to show leadership in explaining why changes were in the interests of patients rather than opposing them. The British Medical Association has previously ridiculed the idea of holding more routine services in evenings and on weekends, describing it as an unaffordable "Tesco NHS". But yesterday the doctors' trade union softened its opposition, agreeing that hospitals needed to offer patients more urgent services at weekends.
Williams, who is president of the Royal College of Surgeons, has been pushing for more consultant-led care on weekends in the face of data showing that in-patients are much more likely to die on Saturdays and Sundays. He has said that support services, such as blood tests, scans and surgery, should also be available.
But the new system is likely to cost more and Williams says there is "no point trying to fool the public" into thinking otherwise.
Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of NHS England, who has called for more routine services at weekends, agreed. "We have to be honest with the public about what we can provide, when, so they can make the decision," he said. ·