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27 July 2015

'Limited' NHS weekend service costing 6000 lives a year

The Government is preparing to push through legislation that would see more consultants work on weekends as they head towards making the NHS a seven-day service by 2020.

A ‘Monday-to-Friday’ culture is being blamed for the loss of 6,000 lives each year in the UK. National Audit Office figures highlighted that 71% of extra work (on a Saturday/Sunday) was performed by consultants that had opted out of weekend work. In some cases this cost four times as much, with hourly rates for consultants on a weekend reaching as high as £200. At the moment, their contract states that they are able to opt-out of non-emergency work outside the hours of 7am to 7pm, Monday to Friday.

Consultant contracts were last negotiated in 2003, and it is understood regardless of whether the BMA comply with the proposed changes within the next 6 weeks, the Government are willing to force them through to ensure all new consultants are employed to be on-call throughout the entire week.

Evidence suggests that being admitted to hospital on a weekend is linked to a higher chance of death. For example, death rates of patients treated on a Sunday were 16%, compared to 11% on a Wednesday. The increased level of consistent care will help maximise the chances of a good recovery for patients and help save more lives in the process.

There are hospitals that already adopt a seven-day service, which have seen significant improvements in patient care and staff morale, adding to the Government’s argument. The Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington has been praised by patients that have used the service that has seen over 6,500 patients receive care already.

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