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The NHS Services, Seven Days a Week Forum set up by NHS England earlier this year has reached a crucial stage in its work as it gathers evidence into how the NHS could move towards offering patients better, safer and high quality health care every day of the week.
Five work streams established by the Forum are investigating the benefits of providing 7 Day services across the country, as well as collating information on the challenges that such a transformation would inevitably throw up.
Finance and work force issues are being examined very closely, as these are key to helping commissioners and providers work together to improve outcomes for patients at weekends.
Other workstreams are considering clinical standards , commissioning levers and future provider/service models.
The Forum is being headed by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England’s National Medical Director, who outlined the enormity of the task the Forum has taken on, saying:
“NHS England is the only healthcare system in the world that is trying to sort out the issue of 7 Day services. Individual hospitals have done some work on it, but never a national health service.
“The NHS is owned by the people, so it must serve the people and serve them when they need it. With ill-health, that has to be across the entire week.
“I believe there are compelling arguments for introducing 7 Day services, not least of all when we consider the mortality rates at weekends compared with the number of deaths during the working week.
“If we can make 7 Day services work, we owe it to our patients to ensure it happens.”
Some Trusts are already developing their own local solutions to problems caused by the five-day service model, with seven day services increasingly being recognised as part of a wider solution to improve efficiency. But NHS England first made its high level commitment to a move towards 7 Day services explicit in its “Everyone Counts” planning document published last December, with the Forum first meeting in February.
The goals and objectives of the Forum are to identify how there might be better access to routine services seven days a week. The team is first focusing on improving diagnostics and urgent and emergency care.
Professor Keith Willett, NHS England’s National Director for Acute Episodes of Care, is also playing a key role on the Forum.
The orthopaedic trauma surgeon from Oxford explained: “I am also leading the Urgent and Emergency Care review for Bruce. And as part of his Senior Management Team, much of what is being discussed around acute services is my area of responsibility clinically.”
Full interviews with each of the leads about their work on the NHS Services, Seven Days a Week Forum will be posted on the NHS England website over the next few weeks..
The Forum is due to report its findings in the autumn, which will include the consequences of the non-availability of clinical services across the seven day week and provide proposals for improvements to any shortcomings.
Without pre-judging the report, it is thought the Forum’s conclusions may point to the need for further action, beyond autumn 2013, which may look at 7 Day services in other specialist areas, as well as building and offering a programme of support for clinical commissioners.
• Further information on the 7-day Services Forum