New clinical standards have been announced by NHS England’s Sir Bruce Keogh to improve NHS care seven days per week.
The results of Sir Bruce’s review into seven-day care could “undo more than 50 years of… practice that have failed to put the interests of patients first”, he claims.
He recommends that NHS providers and commissioners explore new ways of working, such as in networks, collaboratives and federations in order to make seven-day working financially and clinically sustainable.
He said: "As the custodians of £97 billion of public money, we must buy the health services patients deserve. We know that patients and the public want us to act now to make seven-day services a reality in all parts of the NHS.”
Recent reviews of over 14 million hospital admissions have found the risk of mortality at the weekend increases by 11% on a Saturday and 16% on a Sunday.
Sir Bruce’s review cited variable staffing levels, fewer decision makers at consultant levels and a lack of community and primary care services that could prevent unnecessary admissions and support timely discharge as a cause of increased mortality rates.
The new standards describe the standard of urgent and emergency care all patients should expect throughout the week. For example, the standards describe how quickly people admitted to hospital should be assessed by a consultant and the process for handovers between clinical teams.
According to Sir Bruce, NHS England should back the standards with incentives, rewards and sanctions with the aim of implementing them by the end of the 2016/17 financial year.
The Care Quality Commission will be asked to consider how implementation of the standards can be assessed.
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing said: "Of course, much of the NHS already operates on a seven day system, both within and outside hospitals.
“However, Sir Bruce is right that radical change will be required to meet the ambitions he has set out today. What is required is a whole system change. It is not simply a question of changing the way some consultants work, there is a level of complexity which needs to be addressed, taking in everyone from porters to radiographers to technicians, all of whom provide vital services which help keep patients safe.
Dr Mark Porter, chair of the British Medical Association council said: “Delivering more seven-day services will have a number of practical implications, not least on working patterns within the NHS and the vast majority of consultants already lead the delivery of urgent and emergency care at weekends.
“As the report makes clear, doctors are only one part of the solution. Ensuring necessary diagnostic, support and community services are accessible across seven days is also essential to making this work.
“There are no easy solutions, no ‘one size fits all’ answer and delivering more care will require a system-wide approach, but the case for seven-day services has been made and the focus now has to be on developing workable models for delivering it.”
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