Why should more doctors work at weekends?
More patients die in hospitals at weekends
Sir Bruce Keogh (NHS medical director) has called for senior medical professionals to support a seven-day working week. This is because studies show a strong correlation between patient outcomes and the day of the week they were admitted. Patient care, he claims, will be improved by fully-staffing hospitals seven-days a week, reducing preventable deaths.
NHS waiting times could be reduced
While a seven-day week will reduce the number of preventable deaths, it could also alleviate pressure on busy departments. By increasing the number of fully-staffed days each week, NHS waiting times in overstretched departments will decrease and reduce the strain on vital services. Also, lengthy waiting times for routine operations will shorten with potentially a 40% increase in hospital operating hours.
Would more weekend work improve hospital efficiency?
In total the NHS diagnosis machines are worth £1 billion. This huge capital investment isn’t being used to its maximum efficiency. Sir Bruce Keogh asks why “in many hospitals, expensive diagnostic machines and pathology laboratories are under-used, operating theatres lie fallow, and clinics remain empty”.
But on the other hand, will making doctors work harder be beneficial to patient care? There are documented cases of doctors working harder for financial gain, who then jeopardise patient safety by not being as cautious and observant due to physical tiredness and overwork.
Can the NHS afford to employ extra doctors for weekend working?
Paul Flynn, chairman of the British Medical Association’s consultants committee (BMA), is one of the skeptics of Sir Bruce Keogh’s new plan, and he voiced concerns over the costs of moving elective care to weekends. With the already dire financial situation of many NHS trusts, Paul Flynn says that it is “inconceivable that they will be able to staff operating theatres and clinics seven days a week”, and that the NHS is only adding a weekend service to “[cater] for the convenience of the middle class”