What does a ‘seven-day NHS’ mean?

22nd July 2015

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced plans to reform the NHS and create a seven-day service, with the aim of changing the culture of the NHS. Included in the change are the working patterns of consultants to include compulsory weekend shifts and scrapping the overtime payments.

Although a seven-day NHS is beneficial to patients, with the possibility for reduced hospital stays, quicker referrals and appointments, there is speculation over whether the NHS has the resources to support the plan.

A letter to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, written by a nurse working within the NHS has quickly gone viral, with a significant number of NHS workers fighting back against the proposed plan. Health workers are tweeting #ImInWorkJeremy to the health secretary after feeling patronised by the seven-day plan, with the anonymous nurse?s letter stating she has already worked ?just under 60 hours?, as many already work 7 days a week as standard.

The NHS currently has a workforce of around 1.3 million people, but it seems that it would still be a stretch to staff the NHS fully if it was to become truly 24/7. Staff will be expected to work longer hours to cover the further opening hours, and this could lead to significant stretching of the budget to employ more workers to meet the new demand.

The new contract suggested by Jeremy Hunt will have the controversial weekend working within it, taking away the option for consultants to opt out of working unsociable hours, and will contain the proposed abolition of overtime payments. The popular nurse?s letter to David Cameron, highlights how the extra shifts use to go towards ?a summer holiday, or to get some extra money together for Christmas?, but that nurses are now working the same shifts to ensure they?re able to pay the bills at the end of the month and help feed their families.

Fletchers see many patients who are unhappy with the substandard care they have received from the NHS. However, is the answer to contract NHS staff to work more weekends and cut overtime payments? Alternatively, is it that this will lead to an unmotivated workforce, with hurried scrambles for less qualified and non-specialist agency staff who are needed to cover areas without sufficient staffing?

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