Seven-day services: How to build an NHS that does what it says on the tin

If health secretary Jeremy Hunt wants to build a seven-day NHS, says Dr Chris Mimnagh, he should begin by taking a leaf out of the Chinese approach to shaping services that patients can understand.

Excuse me, Mr Hunt. I couldn't help but notice that you are very keen to deliver an NHS that works 24/7.

I also notice that you are cash-strapped and hidebound by political ideology, but let's put that aside.

If I may I'd like to suggest a simple way that you could make it easier to deliver your vision. It's simple really, something that the Chinese do, each service's name is made up of a brief description of what it does. 'Shanghai people's primary care centre weekdays' is an example.

If every part of the NHS carried its opening hours as part of the name you would understand what's actually happening in the system.

Hence general practice would now be referred to as 'general practice 8-6:30 5 days a week', emergency departments would be 'AED 24/7'. Out-of-hours GP would be, for example, 'Berkshire Docs nights and weekends'.

Seven-day GP services

Now I appreciate that some of these things are obvious, but they are not the ones we'd find interesting. I am thinking about those odd services that are essential to smooth running of the system that disappear when things get hairy.

Services such as 'home carer support 9-7 but we take the last call at 6' and 'emergency duty team 9-9, 5 days a week but we can't go out of the office after 5 because someone needs to mind the phone' and my personal favorite, 'domicillary phlebotomy 9-1 5 days but you'll wait a week so might as well send them in if you're worried'.

If you were really keen we could extend the concept to job titles, hence 'acute trust chief exec hell bent on building a new hospital but only in at weekends if the social media team request' would be able to shake hands with 'CCG accountable officer hanging in there until reorganisation before taking pension'. You've got to admit once you started out it would be hard to stop.

Let's face it you already have that title 'Jeremy Hunt, most disliked politician caused first doctors strike in 40 years attempting to make the NHS a saleable concern to the private sector' amongst others I can't repeat.

Yours sincerely

Chris 'GP working bloody hard weekdays, evenings and weekends delivering primary care because both people and the NHS need looking after'.

  • Dr Chris Mimnagh is a GP in Liverpool co-director of clinical strategy at the NHS partnership organisation Liverpool Health Partners

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