STATEMENT FROM DR LOUISE IRVINE OF THE NATIONAL HEALTH ACTION PARTY reacting to David Cameron’s 24/7 NHS pledge
Patients already receive weekend emergency care and have access to whatever diagnostic tests are needed. It’s nonsense to suggest that hospitals don’t properly treat people having a heart attack or a baby at the weekend. The only hospitals that don’t are the ones that David Cameron has closed down.
The Prime Minister says people are more likely to die if they turn up at hospital at the weekend. This is very misleading. Weekend death rates are in fact lower than weekdays. What the data actually shows is that death rates within 30 days of admission are higher in people admitted over the weekend. This is a phenomenon seen also in the USA and Europe, which have very different healthcare systems to the UK’s. The reason for this is poorly understood and there is some evidence that people admitted at weekends are sicker than those admitted on weekdays. In as much as it could be attributed to lower levels of service provision at weekends, then of course this should be addressed, but that requires proper funding. The evidence from the winter A+E crisis is that emergency services are stretched all through the week and desperately need proper funding to sustain quality care on weekdays and weekends, day and night.
Mr Cameron seems to be using rather inconclusive evidence about mortality rates at weekends to justify a move to 24/ 7 day non-emergency NHS services. But trying to implement what would be a 40% service increase to cover weekends without adequate funding for extra staff and support would just mean existing services would be spread even more thinly and this could result in a decline in quality of services throughout the week and we could end up with higher mortality rates every day of the week.
This government’s underfunding of our NHS has already pushed it to the cliff edge. It’s reckless of David Cameron to pledge to extend NHS care so that scheduled operations and appointments can happen at weekends unless he backs that up with money that isn’t recycled or previously committed.