The seven day NHS topic has been highly controversial, and been discussed since the 1990s, more recently, significant research has emerged regarding the seven day NHS, and it has become a very important subject for the government to consider.
The idea of a seven day NHS, essentially is; providing quality, equal healthcare, regardless of the day of the week. It mainly focuses on improving the quality of care on weekends, to meet the quality of care provided on weekdays. The government is pushing to opening local GP surgeries on weekends, and extending their hours.
Research has shown that the quality of care provided by the NHS is not evenly spread over the week, and an investigation has provided evidence that a patient is 15% more likely to die if they are admitted on the weekend rather than if they are admitted mid-week.
In theory, it may seem like the sensible option would be to increase weekly working hours for current medical staff, or increase the number of medical staff on the weekend. However, it is critically important to consider, the morale of medical staff, pay, and the funding required. Currently the NHS is already struggling with its limited yearly budget, and if the idea of a seven day NHS were to be implemented then additional funding would be required. If the government chooses to go with the route of increasing the number of medical staff, then this will mean the budget has to be increased significantly. However, this option doesn’t look likely for now as the predicted increase in the NHS budget of £8 billion by 2020 is meant to be allocated to continue running current services. The other option of extending working hours of current medical staff is possible, however it is important to consider the stress medical staff would face, and as a result this can lead to a reduction in the quality of care provided. On the long-term, if medical staff continue to work for very long hours, without sufficient remuneration, then many will struggle in creating a work-life balance, which would directly lead to a decrease in the number of medical applicants, possibly leading to a major shortage of staff on the long term.
The NHS should ensure that the quality of care provided is at its highest all days of the week, however the NHS also needs to consider the workload of medical staff, and ensure they aren’t under stress to a point where the quality of care may actually deteriorate. We have also seen that the British Medical Association doesn’t currently support this scheme, therefore the NHS needs to find an alternative to improving the quality of care provided to patients on the weekend, while ensuring medical staff aren’t vulnerable in the process.