Caution over 7-day week for medics
A proposal to create seven-day working weeks for doctors will simply formalise what is already happening, a leading Ulster consultant has said.
The British Medical Association (BMA) is now backing a seven-day service, saying that 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.
BMA Council chairman Dr Mark Porter said: "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."
Catherine Macadam, chairwoman of the Patient Liaison Group welcomed the move.
Chair of the Northern Ireland Consultants Committee of the BMA Dr John D Woods said that it is about making the quality of care uniformly good across the whole week.
He said that many BMA members are already working seven day weeks, but warned that it needs to be properly resourced.
He said: "Consultants in Northern Ireland do provide a lot of emergency care as it is, particularly in areas where patients are acutely ill such as emergency departments, intensive care, caring for premature babies and cardiology. I think we need to find out what resources are required because currently much of the consultant effort is targeted at Monday to Friday, if we are going to extend that service out to a more comprehensive service at the weekend, clearly that is going to have resource implications.
"Our members are prepared to do this but it needs to be appropriately resourced."
Dr Woods said that the consultant workforce is stretched, and that they do not want to get back to doctors being overtired.
He said one example of where consultants are already extending their working patterns is in the care of heart attack victims.
He said: "Cardiologists in the Belfast Trust have put a lot of effort in the last several years into providing that service during the night as well, so are moving towards a 24-hour service."