NHS England medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh has publicly acknowledged BMA warnings about tackling problems in emergency care before expanding seven-day services.
In a recent interview with the Sunday Times, Sir Bruce (pictured right) pledged that patients would get the same level of treatment at weekends as they do during the week by March 2017.
However, at a conference on delivering NHS services over seven days Sir Bruce recognised the BMA’s efforts to draw attention to existing issues in emergency and urgent care.
BMA council chair Mark Porter said it was clear that patients should have access to the same levels of high-quality care every day of the week.
Dr Porter said: ‘Doctors should be part of the solution when it comes to identifying how the NHS can achieve this.
‘Addressing as a priority the clear resource problems that hinder doctors from giving good care to urgent and emergency patients is the right way to continue down this path, and will, as Sir Bruce Keogh says, bring other benefits to patients.’
He added that what was good for patients must be accompanied by a consideration of what was sustainable for the NHS and fair for doctors.
During his address to the NHS Improving Quality conference Delivering NHS Services, Seven Days A Week, Sir Bruce reflected on how different contributions to the debate had led to priorities being set.
‘When the debate [on seven-day services] started to mature, the BMA said “we have still got problems in emergency and urgent care, focus on that”,’ he acknowledged.
Setting the standard
Using the analogy of eating an elephant in bite-sized pieces, he said once there was ‘significant’ consultant presence in hospitals and appropriate diagnostic facilities at weekends, the rest would follow.
‘Let us focus on urgent and emergency care and others will follow in its wake,’ he said.
‘In our heart of hearts, we know that the service we offer at the weekend is not as good as the service during the week.
‘We know what we are doing is the right thing and, most importantly, we know that we are doing this in a different way — basing this on a set of clinical standards.
‘There is no single answer to [doing] this — there will be several answers and that is good in a society as big and heterogeneous as ours.’
Sir Bruce added that the NHS was one of the healthcare systems in the world best equipped to solve inequity and offered a chance to realise ambition for the health service and its patients.
‘This is the most important and exciting opportunity we have faced as a nation,’ he said.
‘Greater provision of services remains my number one priority.’
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