BMA backs seven-day services but says urgent care is priority

Seven-day, round-the-clock NHS services should only be considered after investment to raise standards in urgent and emergency care, the BMA has said.

BMA: Urgent care must be prioritised

In a policy position paper launched over the weekend, the doctors’ union said it was ready to work with stakeholders to understand what working patterns are required to achieve even standards of care across seven days. 

But, in the current economic climate, the BMA does not believe resources can be freed up for elective and routine services on evenings and weekends, it added.

The statement read: ‘The BMA believes that urgent and emergency services should be the priority for investment to bring the standard up to the very best, every day.

'As such, care quality improvement should be the primary driver of seven-day service development for acutely ill patients. Only then can the debate start as to whether a full weekday service can also be afforded at nights, weekends and bank holidays.’

It said: 'The BMA can also play a key role in determining a model for seven-day services to improve quality for acutely ill patients across primary and secondary care – essential, if we are to address the system-wide challenges facing the NHS.'

The BMA said it supports ‘GPs taking part in the recently announced pilots that aim to extend access, although we remain concerned that the current workforce is stretched trying to provide high quality care within current access arrangements'.

The £50m pilot scheme sparked funding fears when announced by prime minister David Cameron earlier this month.  

GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden believes the funding available for the scheme suggests GPs will be paid less than the minimum wage to open for longer.

The costs involved in extending opening from a 52.5-hour week to 84 hours would mean GPs were paid around £3 an hour for the extra time, he said. ‘The government is asking GPs to work for less than half the minimum wage.’

Dr Holden said the plans would ‘spread the workforce too thinly’ while there was already a ‘desperate shortage’ of GPs, with many already working hours that would be banned in other professions.

‘Why stoke up demand you can’t possibly fulfil?’ he said. ‘We’d like to if we could, Mr Cameron, but this is completely off the wall.’

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