Patient Safety ‘Cannot Be Forgotten’ In NHS Seven-Day Working Debate

Lawyers Call For Care To Be Key Reason Behind Any Changes

16.07.2015

The safety of patients must be the primary driver behind any changes made to NHS working patterns, according to specialist medical negligence lawyers reacting to government plans to reform consultant contracts in relation to weekend work.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has told the BBC that 6,000 avoidable deaths occur every year as a result of a “Monday to Friday culture” in the NHS, as he discussed plans to switch to a system which promotes seven-day working.

It is hoped that the change would ensure standards of care and treatment are improved across weekends – with Mr Hunt stating that there is a 15 per cent higher change if admitted on a Sunday rather than a Wednesday.

The British Medical Association has said it supports seven-day working, but warned that more should also be done to ensure the availability of support services such as pathology on weekends.

As the debate on the issue continues, specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have urged the Government and the NHS to ensure that any changes reflect the need to continue to drive up standards of patient safety.

Expert Opinion
"Much debate has emerged regarding this issue of seven-day working, but it is vital that amid the discussion that there remains one fundamental priority – improving treatment and support to reduce safety concerns that patients face.

"The nature of our work means we sadly see numerous cases in which patients have suffered serious injury or, in some cases, died as a result of failings in care – with a number of these occurring on weekends with questions raised regarding the availability of necessary services.

"With this in mind, switching to a system of care which ensures high quality care is available around-the-clock can only be a positive step.

"However, this is clearly a complex issue with many factors to consider, as the BMA’s comments on the need for support services to be available demonstrates.

"As such, it is vital that the Government and the NHS listen to and work together with medical professionals to ensure the best possible approach is taken."
Angela Kirtley, Partner