Speaking at an NHS Improvement event in London on Monday, Professor Keogh said the NHS must ‘aim to be offering a seven-day-a-week service across the board’.
‘We must shift to a much more consumer-based service and we must follow the route taken by many other industries and start to address the issue of why our NHS shuts down in many respects for two-and-a-half days a week,’ he said. ‘We must aim to be offering a seven-day-a-week service across the board.’
Professor Keogh asked how the NHS would treat a single mother who found a breast lump on a Friday afternoon. He said: ‘How long is it before you get really good advice on that breast lump? What kind of weekend do you have?’
He added: ‘There are reasons of economy, there are reasons of efficiency, but the most important reason that we need to start focusing on providing a seven-day service in the NHS is simply for compassion. Think of that poor woman and her breast lump.’
Professor Keogh said that the situation found at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust ‘illustrates the difference between a customer-related industry and one that is more focussed on simply providing services for the convenience of its own staff’.
GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said it was 'too simplistic' to talk about a seven-day-a-week service without describing what services would be expected at weekend and evenings.
'We should stop raising patient expectations without being clear how we might deliver them and what impact such a priority would have on the services we offer to other patients,' he said.
Dr Vautrey said there would also need to be consideration of what services it would be reasonable to provide at weekends and what is cost effective and affordable.
'Clearly any expectation to provide a full range of GP services seven days a week would require a massive increase in resources which are simply not available at a time when we are struggling to fund current services and in many cases they seem to be under threat, he said.
He added: 'It also has to be questioned whether it is appropriate to invest in additional services for the relatively well in an evening and weekend when we could use the resources better for those that need better services in the current core hours of working.