Streeting pledges on evening and weekend working must come with wider resourcing and considerations, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Sunday 19 May 2024
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Responding to Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting's comments about introducing more evening and weekend clinics to address NHS waiting lists, Professor Philip Banfield, BMA council chair, said:

“That Mr Streeting seems to be committing to invest heavily in NHS staff and infrastructure is most welcome, as this is what will be required to realise his pledge - and, as we know, ‘for every complex problem, there is a solution that is clear, simple, and wrong’.

“To release extra weekend capacity requires substantial investment in doctors, nurses and support staff given that they already deliver 24/7 emergency services, 365 days of the year. In making such a pledge, however, Labour would be committing to making this happen.

“Consideration must also have been given to increasing out-of-hours child or dependents’ care for not only medics, but the nurses, porters, cleaners and other support staff required to make this a reality? And to making sure there are still beds, doctors and enough operating sets to continue on Monday mornings?

“I’m delighted that Labour tacitly acknowledge that they will increase beds, address the need to update NHS premises and facilities, and pay doctors appropriately for their skills and expertise, by making this pledge.

“Whilst some reforms to pension taxation have been introduced by the present Government, there have been no changes to the tapered annual allowance, which means that for potentially thousands of doctors the reality is that they can’t take on any additional shifts without incurring punitive additional tax bills. In addition, Labour’s previously touted plans to reintroduce the lifetime allowance, risks causing an exodus of our most senior clinicians. In his pledge to encourage additional out-of-hours working, we can assume that Labour is committed to addressing both of these issues too?

“More broadly, Mr Streeting says he recognises the NHS workforce crisis. But expecting staff to stretch themselves thinner and thinner will do nothing to keep doctors in the NHS or attract new recruits. As Labour well know, the waiting list began rising more than a decade ago, reaching a record high last year, so bringing it down in a meaningful way will take time. Pledges like this may make good headlines, but they to be taken with a dose of reality. If they are up for taking the medicine, however, we may finally reverse the decline in this nation’s health.”

Ends

Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.