NHS doctors to be forced to work weekends for the first time in push for improved seven-day a week care
Oupatients appointments and surgical procedures could be carried out on Saturdays and Sundays for the first timeThe shake up is part of plans by Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of the new NHS Commissioning Board
23:19 GMT, 16 December 2012
Seven days: Sir Bruce Keogh plans to introduce seven day working to the NHS
Doctors could be forced to work at weekends under plans to create a health service with supermarket-style opening hours.
Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS’s medical director, said that patients, like shoppers, should be entitled to the same quality of service on Saturday and Sunday as during the week.
He said it was no longer acceptable for hospitals and GPs’ surgeries to operate for the convenience of their staff at the expense of patients and that clinics and day case operations should be available seven days a week.
It should also be possible to get weekend hospital appointments for scans and GPs should provide slots to treat patients at weekends, he said.
The proposal is to be considered by the NHS Commissioning Board in an effort to improve access to healthcare.
He told the Sunday Times: 'Our system has been based around providing as good a working environment as you can for the people who work in the health service, which isn't necessarily matched with what the people who want services have.
'If you wanted a day case operation, and you didn't want to take a day off work, why can't you have it on a Saturday or Sunday'
'Tesco have had to go through this – it was a complex issue for them – we will need to look at the terms and conditions or service of people.'
He added that having empty clinics and operating theatres on a Saturday and Sunday is a waste of NHS resources.
Research by the board found that a patient admitted to hospital on a Sunday was 16 per cent more likely to die than if they were admitted on a Wednesday.
Keogh can introduce the changes and implement financial rewards and penalties to ensure that hospitals follow the guidelines.
Contract changes: Many medical professionals will have to work Saturdays and Sundays for the first time
The plans will no doubt anger doctors who will be keen to protect their current working hours.
Medical professionals will not receive any extra money for working weekends but will be given days off in the week instead.
The proposals will be fully outlined in the NHS Commissioning Board's first planning guidance which will detail how health funds will be spent ahead and which will be released on Tuesday.
The British Medical Association (BMA) last night rejected the idea that that the medical profession could learn from private firms such as Tesco but it was 'open' to discussing seven day working.