Seven-day working is already a reality for many consultants, doctors at today’s BMA annual consultants conference insisted.
But the financial realities of providing infrastructure and support services were limiting their clinical effectiveness at weekends, they maintained.
London consultant in emergency medicine Simon Walsh (pictured) said colleagues in many specialties, not just acute specialties, worked Saturdays and Sundays.
But he added there were some things that he was only easily able to do Monday to Friday.
‘I couldn’t easily get an ultrasound of a child’s hip,’ he said, by way of example.
Oxford consultant anaesthetist Simon Chamberlain said that at his hospital there was a consultant anaesthetist on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
He argued consultants were being made scapegoats for the lack of care and lack of investment in the NHS that meant a second-class service was provided at weekends.
‘We are the people who provide emergency care all the time,’ Dr Chamberlain maintained.
Clear process necessary
BMA consultants committee Paul Flynn said that the association had been clear in negotiations for England and Northern Ireland that there needed to be a process before an employer asked consultants to work these hours.
‘We need to be sure we have the tools of our trade, that we have support and rest facilities before they even think of doing it,’ he insisted.
Consultants also complained about the lack of realistic workforce planning and little consideration of recruitment and retention issues in recent NHS publications regarding seven-day working.
Cleveland consultant paediatrician Kailash Agrawal said: ‘We don’t have sufficient consultant workforce to provide the current service. How will we provide a seven-day service?’
Doctors at the conference agreed there would need to be a significant service reconfiguration as a result of the government push for seven-day services.
Dr Flynn said there needed to be ‘an honest debate with the public’ and that ‘small isolated units are really going to struggle’.
The conference also called for the BMA to counteract official propaganda and showcase the out-of-hours work of consultants in hospitals.
London consultant paediatrician Bernie Borgstein said: ‘There appears to be a deliberate failure to distinguish between emergency and non-emergency work on behalf of the government and continual discrediting of consultants in the public eye.’
Watch the webcast of the BMA annual consultants conference
Join the conversation about seven-day working
Read more about the consultant contract negotiations