Pure politics. The Health service is open for emergencies and consultants work nights and weekends already.. No wonder the profession are disengaged. This press release, and the media’s naïve coverage only make it worse..
James Meikle in The Guardian 22nd December 2015 reports: NHS leaders set out plans for seven-day access to services in 15 months – Guidance includes aim for quarter of patients in England to have week-round access to acute care and a fifth to GPs by March 2017
A quarter of England’s population should have access to some seven-day services in acute hospitals in only 15 months, NHS leaders have said.
They also laid out their ambition for a fifth of people to have better week-round access to GPs and other primary care by March 2017.
Other “must-dos” include returning to meeting key targets that demand 95% of patients wait for less than four hours in A&E and all ambulance trusts respond to 75% of immediately life-threatening calls within eight minutes.
These changes must be achieved while “embedding a culture of relentless cost containment” rather than trying to grow income, planning guidance issued by the NHS’s main organisational and financial bodies said on Tuesday.
Their aim is to restore “financial balance” by the end of the next financial year – a tough target given the fact that the NHS was £1.6bn in deficit six months into this one.
The guidance, the latest attempt to bring “joined-up” care rather than concentrating on individual health and social care organisations, does however offer hospital trusts a glimmer of financial hope, saying that they will only have to make annual efficiency savings of 2%, a measure said to reflect rising healthcare costs and half the 4% that was originally envisaged.
The seven-day ambition set for patients at hospitals covering 25% of the population should mean that by the end of the 2016-17 financial year all emergency admissions are seen, and have a thorough clinical assessment, by a suitable consultant as soon as possible, but at the latest within 14 hours from the time of arrival at hospital.
Patients in such hospitals should also have scheduled access to diagnostic services such as x-ray, ultrasound, MRI or endoscopy, and “timely 24-hour access, seven days a week, to consultant-directed interventions”. Patients in high-dependency areas such as intensive care units must also be seen and reviewed by a consultant twice daily.
Other priorities include reductions in “avoidable deaths” and improvements in one-year cancer survival rates, in meeting referral to treatment and other waiting time standards, and in access to mental health services.
“Transforming” care for those with learning disabilities and achieving overall improvements in quality, especially for organisations that have been put in special measures, are among other ambitions.
All this must be done by improving “workforce productivity”, ensuring “the right staff are in the right place at the right time to ensure patients get the right hours of care and minimum time is spent on bureaucracy”.
The guidance – from a group of national health and care bodies including the Care Quality Commission, Public Health England and Nice – also reiterates warnings that reliance on agency staffing must be cut. It comes as the question of new contracts for junior doctors remains unresolved – the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, sees changes as vital to delivering a 24/7 service.
The guidance, designed to kickstart changes to the way services are run over the next five years, comes a week after a £560bn sum was promised for the NHS up to April 2021.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said the guidance represented the next steps in making the vision of changing services in its Five Year Forward View (pdf) a reality.
Jim Mackey, chief executive designate of NHS Improvement, a new regulator, said: “We all know how big the financial challenge that we’re facing is and the next year will be absolutely critical as the NHS gets a grip of the situation.
“Now is the time to stabilise hospital performance and finances so we can give the NHS a firm footing to make the necessary improvements.
“We also need to look seriously at what can be done to realise the long-term improvements needed at a local level and to get on with making changes happen so that patients can rely on strong and sustainable services.”