A seven day NHS has been debated since the 1990’s, now 2 decades later, pressure is mounting and the prospect is looking more likely.
Patients are 16% more likely to die if they are admitted on a Sunday compared with a Wednesday.
A 7 day NHS aims redress this balance to make the standards of care equal across the week, in order that patients can expect the same level of service regardless of the day of the week they are admitted.
Historically, patients admitted in to hospital over a weekend will have to wait for routine tests and treatments. Emergency care is available as a constant, but for some tests a patient can wait up to 48 hours. This results in delayed diagnoses, delay treatments, longer stays in hospital and puts the patient at increased risk of further illness and readmission due to complications.
The cost of the current system is placing unnecessary burden on an already overstretched NHS. ‘Bedblocking’ patients are stuck in hospital waiting for tests when they could just as well be at home. Combined with issues of ineffective use of staff resources and the call on agency staff, and the cost to the NHS for a traditional week only service is considerable.
The three to five-year, Seven Day Services Improvement Programme aims to ensure the equity in care for patients regardless of the day of the week.
Prime Minister David Cameron made it a key part of his first speech after winning a majority in May, saying he wanted to see a truly seven-day service. Which includes a plan to give access to local GP surgeries during Saturday and Sunday’s, and an extension of services currently available within hospitals.
It is recognised that emergency care from A&E units giving life-saving surgery and assistance is available at weekends, however the level of staffing tends to be much lower, and access to specialist tests makes the process of diagnosing accurately much harder during the weekend.
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