Freeing up funds to make possible a seven-day NHS

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The government is right to push ahead with plans for seven-day NHS.

This will entail changing employment contracts to make daily services a reality.

All organisations, and particularly public sector organisations, run the risk of arranging their services in a way that suits the people who work in them, rather than the people that they are supposed to serve.

Working arrangements that suit the employee over the recipient are not merely wrong in the health service, they are dangerous. A number of studies have shown that patients are more likely to die in hospital over the weekend than during the working week.

Having said that, the British Medical Association has raised some serious concerns about plans for a seven-day NHS. The group, which represents doctors, says that adding a new service on top of existing commitments “is not realistic” without more money.

This is true, and it leads on to a fresh problem, and one that is not being acknowledged by politicians.

The revolution in longevity means that people are living on average for longer than at any time in human history.

This is a wonderful advance for mankind, but it is adding an almost intolerable pressure on the health service.

Something has to give.

In Northern Ireland, it has become increasingly apparent that abolishing prescription charges was a mistake.

It has increased demand for drugs, and their cost to a health service that was already under growing pressure.

While in an ideal world, free prescriptions would be the norm, abolishing charges was a move in the wrong direction given the demographic changes.

It is not unreasonable now to examine whether reinstating charges, and perhaps introducing a minor charge for visiting GPs, as happens in countries such as France, will help to free up funds for a seven-day NHS.