BMA chief slams ‘7-day NHS week’ for what it is: empty rhetoric

Head of the BMA Dr Mark Porter has roundly criticised the government’s opening ‘promise’ to make the NHS a ‘7-day-a-week service’: by pointing out that it actually already is one, needs more money to stay that way let alone improve, and can only improve if it gets the investment to be better co-ordinated. Which this government is so far staying resolutely silent on. 

In a statement issued on 18 May, Dr Porter said:Mark Porter

 “This is more or less a repeat of the pledge made during the general election campaign, which we rightly dismissed as nothing more than empty headline grabbing.

 “The Government’s position neglects the fact that doctors across the country already lead the delivery of GP and hospital services around the clock, seven-days a week. It also ignores the elephant in the room: how to provide far more care across the week without also providing the extra staff and investment needed to deliver it.

 “David Cameron promises an additional £8bn a year by 2020, while conveniently ignoring that this is the bare minimum needed for the NHS to stand still and that the health service is facing a funding gap of £30bn. Nobody knows when the Government plans to allocate the much-needed extra money or where cuts will be made to fill the remaining gap. Thousands more doctors have also been promised without any indication of where they might come from, and without acknowledging the existing chronic shortage of doctors in general practice and many acute specialties.

 “In our response, which made headlines across yesterday’s and this morning’s national news, we challenged the prime minister to stop shirking the difficult questions and explain how he plans to translate his pledges into reality. Without this level of detail, his announcement is merely an empty pledge and ignores doctors’ concerns about how to secure better and safer services in a way that is good for patients and doctors, and sustainable for the NHS.

“It’s not just doctors who are sceptical; a coalition of concerned voices, including The King’s Fund and the NHS Confederation, spoke out yesterday, warning that seven-day services can’t be introduced by tinkering around the edges. Instead, system-wide change and investment will be needed to deliver not just the extra doctors and nurses but the support and community services that are also vital to its success.

“With junior doctors’ and consultants’ concerns over patient safety left unanswered during last year’s contract talks and general practice stretched to breaking point, the BMA continues to press the Government to agree contracts that will protect patient safety, prevent doctor burnout and better equip the NHS to rise to future challenges.

 “It sets a worrying precedent that the new Government’s first announcement on the NHS is so heavy on rhetoric and light on substance. The NHS is too important to us all to be used as a political football. Patients, NHS staff and the public deserve better.”

DFNHS could not have put it better. We would also add that unless the equally empty ideology of ‘public bad, private better’ stops being applied to the wonderful NHS simply for its own sake, and is replaced by evidence-based thinking recognising that public-health services funded publicly are in fact the best way of rationing healthcare, more patients are going to find that the NHS they know and rely on has disappeared. And that is not acceptable – any day of the week.


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