BMA backs seven-day NHS service
Patients should have access to NHS services seven days a week, leading doctors have said.
The apparent U-turn by the British Medical Association (BMA) could pave the way for routine practices and procedures over weekends.
However, as the group changed its stance to support a seven-day service, it warned there is "much work to be done".
In a new paper it said patients should have greater access to high quality emergency, urgent and acute services every day of the week, and is committed to working with the NHS to develop a revamped model for delivering care.
Dr Mark Porter, chairman of BMA Council said: "Patients should have greater access to high quality care throughout the week and doctors should be part of the solution when it comes to identifying how the NHS can achieve this.
"There is much work to be done on determining a model for seven-day services, especially around the practical and financial implications for the NHS and for doctors' working patterns.
"We are already in negotiations with the government on how to develop working patterns which meet patient demand and deliver greater consultant presence at weekends, while safeguarding the need for a healthy work-life balance.
"Given the NHS has finite resources we have to look at what services can be provided within the existing workforce and budget. We believe delivering consistently high quality emergency, urgent and acute services across seven days should be the priority.
"This should be the starting point for a debate on what additional services the NHS can provide given the economic climate, and we look forward to working with all stakeholders to find a solution that's good for patients, fair for doctors and affordable for the NHS."
Catherine Macadam, chairwoman of the Patient Liaison Group said: " We very much welcome the BMA's commitment to working with patients and other stakeholders to find a workable model for 7-day services which ensures that NHS care is of the same high quality across seven days, with acutely ill patients as the top priority.
"Patients rightly expect to have access to high quality care whenever they need it and however they access it. There is much work to be done to ensure the health service is more responsive to patient needs and we expect that doctors will play a leading role in driving these change in the NHS, working with others to find a sustainable solution and putting patients at the heart of the NHS."
Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England's medical director, said, "Healthcare services around the world face many issues, one of which is how to provide the same quality care at weekends as during the week.
"The BMA's support reflects a recognition of the magnitude of the issues and a growing groundswell among clinicians to solve the problem.
"I am grateful to the media for promoting an honest and open debate which now sets our NHS ahead of other countries in facing up to, and addressing, a previously hidden problem.
"The NHS 7 Day Services Forum, which is due to report its findings next month has gathered a significant amount of evidence and a number of ideas on how we bring this about safely in a financially sound way."