A growing amount of research has indicated that there is an increased death rate in hospitals over the weekend.
The chairman for the British Medical Association, Dr Mark Porter, has now suggested that hospital consultants should now consider working over the weekend to help address the issue.
Consultant cover over the weekend is common in the intensive care and A&E departments, but most other areas only require a consultant to be on call. It has been suggested that this contributes to an increased death rate by as much as 10% over the weekend.
There has been some changing to normal working patterns in some NHS trusts, but Dr Porter has called for this to become more common.
A spokesperson from the NHS Confederation welcomed the suggestion and pointed out that having a consultant present is very different to having one on call. However, they also raised the issue of cost. Hospitals can’t afford to employ more consultants and it may be that they would have to reconfigure their services.
However, Ministers are considering offering some financial incentives to help hospitals improve their weekend services.
Sir Bruce Keogh, the medical director for the NHS, said: “Having more senior staff and consultants around at weekends is fundamental to the NHS shifting from a five-day-week to a seven-day-week. It will mean better support for junior doctors and key decisions, like what tests to run, what treatment to give and whether to operate – can be made more quickly.”