I may be in Scotland with my NHS well out of the clutches of Jeremy Hunt and the Tories, but I have been very interested in the Twitter phenomenon that has become #IminworkJeremy as NHS staff tweet pictures of themselves working the weekend.
I’ve always bristled when I’ve heard the Tories talk about the need for a 7 day NHS. We’ve always had a 7 day NHS, with more than you would think going on behind the scenes.
I can understand the call for more accessibility outside weekday hours, especially for outpatient and GP appointments, but we need to make sure that any changes we make have an overall gain. You can’t shift resources to one thing without taking them from another.
The Tories’ language around this has been unfortunate, implying that medical staff are dragging their feet about the move to 7 day working. The staff themselves think that the changes haven’t been properly thought through as this Guardian article argues:
Doctors do support more seven-day hospital services where they are essential and where patient care and safety can be improved. They have called on the government to outline how it will fund and staff them. Hunt’s simplistic approach ignores the fact that this is a much broader issue than just doctors’ contracts. Recent research found that the heightened risk of death after admission to hospital at the weekend – the “weekend effect” – is a feature of healthcare systems in several developed countries (US, Australia and Netherlands), and not just a problem for hospitals in England.
We need more research on how to understand and remedy this rather than score political points to undermine NHS staff. We have witnessed a relentless drive to cut down on the number of district general hospitals and A&Es, and a simultaneous push for an expansion of community services, as well as secondary care from within existing resources. More than 80% of the public believes that doctors cannot deliver seven-day services without proper support, yet the health secretary makes no mention of the extra nurses, diagnostic staff, porters, admin staff – the list goes on – that will be needed to deliver the high standard of care patients deserve seven days a week.
The Government needs to show some appreciation of public sector staff and work with them to make sensible changes that are practical and will deliver an improved service. There is no point in producing a service that ends up less safe because it requires doctors, nurses and support staff to work stupid hours.
There is a reason that I’m particularly appreciative of NHS staff who work weekends. Just one week ago, they saved the lives of two people I love. I can’t go into details, because it’s not my story to tell, but it was pretty scary and traumatic for a while. The skill and speed of the doctors averted a horrible tragedy.
The medical staff who are tweeting their photos to Jeremy Hunt are performing similar miracles this and every weekend.