Response to Secretary of State speech at the King’s Fund

Please see the below comment from the Society for Acute Medicine in response to the Secretary of State’s speech at the King’s Fund today (Thursday, 16 July).

Dr Alistair Douglas, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “It is clear there is need for a fundamental change in approach to tackle some of the significant pressures which affect the ability of the NHS to deliver efficient, high quality services.

“Providing seven-day services is an issue we have strongly and vocally advocated over a number of years, so it is a positive development to see the Secretary of State setting out an agenda for action.

“The NHS shouldn’t discriminate against patients depending on which day of the week they are admitted to hospital – everyone deserves the same high level of care whatever day of the week they are admitted.

“But, to make the plans a reality, they must be implemented properly first time round and that will require investment and whole-system input.

“In acute medicine, where physicians routinely work seven days a week and 91% of physicians support seven-day services, our priority is to see a comprehensive roll out.

“That means not only adequate weekend staffing in hospitals to ensure any patient who requires a consultant review gets it wherever they are in hospital on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, but also GPs opening at weekends and better weekend support services, such as radiology, physiotherapy and pharmacy.

“All frontline staff need to work on rotas that include weekends and public holidays with appropriate compensatory time off – the key to success is in spreading the five-day working pattern more evenly over seven days.

“It is imperative any government intervention does not overlook the desperate need to improve access to social care to ensure patients who are well enough are discharged from hospital promptly in order to relieve pressure on bed capacity in hospitals.”