In May David Cameron said that he wanted a ‘truly seven-day NHS’. Was this a genuine commitment or another of his many empty soundbites; who knows? GPs certainly don't.
At a time when local GPs and those around the UK are working harder than ever but struggling to maintain the existing service launching the world’s first seven-day service would be a monumental challenge. You would expect the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to be working closely with doctors to start planning these changes but in fact they have been kept totally in the dark about what a seven-day service would look like and have been accused of being obstructive. How can you obstruct something about which you know nothing?
The British Medical Association, the representative body for GPs, needs our help and is asking for us all to sign a letter asking the Prime Minister to reveal his plan for a ‘truly seven-day NHS’ by adding our names to a letter and tweeting this. The link for more information and the letter is here: http://bma.org.uk/showusyourplan. This isn’t just a matter for the medical profession it affects us all and it is crucial for all of us to know what the government is planning, so please sign.
This is how the BMA have described the ludicrous, but depressingly familiar, situation and their reason for asking for public support:
‘The prime minister said in May he wanted a ‘truly seven-day NHS’, but without a word then or since on how this service – the first such in the world – would be staffed, funded or where the necessary support services would be found.
Last month, the health secretary Jeremy Hunt repeated the mantra, in the same breath accusing the BMA of being a ‘roadblock’ to reform. A roadblock to what exactly? Never has a policy been launched with such a breathtaking lack of detail. When I pointed out in a radio interview last month that it wasn’t possible simply to stretch existing staff over seven days, the secretary of state even said I was ‘absolutely right’. In the same interview, he acknowledged that seven-day diagnostic tests would be needed, but has given no clue where the extra staff and funding will come from.
Meanwhile, the Government has launched inaccurate, demoralising and destructive attacks on doctors. As thousands of us work in NHS hospitals at weekends, we’ve had to stomach the irony of weekend newspapers full of stories about doctors supposedly shirking our responsibilities.
This, of course, is intended to distract the public from the lack of detail or any plan to deliver the expanded service. But – for doctors and the patients for whom we care – it’s time for answers, not insults.
So from today, we’re asking a question a day in national newspapers – seven questions about the prime minister’s ‘truly seven-day NHS’ over the next seven days. Today, we’re asking perhaps the most basic question of all: when will the prime minister define a ‘truly seven-day NHS’? We’re also urging people – doctors and the public – to sign up to ask the prime minister to show us the plan for a seven-day health service. They are straightforward questions, the most basic points, which any Government must have worked out in launching a new policy – the money, the staff, the impact on services and, critically, on patients.
Independent researchers have concluded that the cost of implementing seven-day services far exceeds the maximum threshold that NICE would recommend the NHS be prepared to spend on eradicating any weekend effect. If this is the case then the prime minister must be clear in his plans.
We have been quite clear – we support the same high standards for patients needing acute, emergency and urgent care seven days a week. The context is also clear. The NHS has never been resourced at weekends to the extent that it is during the week, and the service overall is facing dire financial pressures. So where’s the plan to square this circle? Others have been raising questions too. The Doctors and Dentists Review Body has said, that without evidence of efficiency or productivity gains from introducing seven-day services, ‘it is not clear to us that this change could be implemented without further resource’.
The Government can’t just gloss over the lack of detail about how it intends to deliver the expansion of seven-day services.
So, I’m asking you to join the BMA now in pressing the prime minister to show us all his plan for a ‘truly seven-day NHS’ by adding your name at bma.org.uk/sevendayletter and tweeting your support using #showusthe7dayplan. To find out more about our position, go to bma.org.uk/showusyourplan.'