Seven-day NHS – A “Pipe Dream”? – BMA and Jeremy Hunt at war

Charlie Cooper writing in The Independent (01/08/2015) – Jeremy Hunt has “peddled myths” about medics’ workload and demoralised the NHS workforce over plans for more seven-day services, the leader of the country’s doctors has claimed, as a survey reveals nine out of 10 consultants are already on evening and weekend rotas.

Ahead of contract talks, Dr Mark Porter, the chairman of the doctors’ union the British Medical Association (BMA), said the profession was “furious” with the Health Secretary, who told it last month to “get real” over the need for a “proper seven-day service in hospitals”. Dr Porter accused Mr Hunt of “calling into question the professionalism” of the UK’s most senior doctors.

Jeremy HuntA backlash for Jeremy Hunt

Mr hunt’s comments have led to a backlash among doctors. A petition to Parliament proposing a vote of no-confidence in the Health Secretary has attracted more than 200,000 signatures. Doctors across the country have been protesting against Mr Hunt by posting photos of themselves at work at weekends on Twitter with the hashtag #ImInWorkJeremy.

But the Department of Health has accused the BMA of trying to turn the debate on seven-day services into a “politicians vs doctors battle” and challenged consultants to drop a clause in the current contract that allows them to opt out of doing non-emergency work at the weekends.

BMA negotiators are preparing for talks over consultant and junior doctor contracts ahead of a September deadline, at which point Mr Hunt has said he would be willing to impose a new contract.

A BMA survey of nearly 900 consultants shows 88 per cent are on a “non-resident on-call rota”,  which means they are required to attend hospital at evenings or weekends if required, often in emergencies.

More than two-thirds told the survey they had been on call on Saturday or Sunday in the past week, working an average of six hours, with much longer demands of up to nine hours for those in specialities required in emergencies, such as surgeons and anaesthetists.

Meanwhile recent analysis of the case for more seven-day services by health researchers at the University of Manchester and the University of York found there was “a lack of evidence” that increasing the levels of consultant cover at weekends leads to reductions in mortality rates.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “The BMA can’t have it both ways: if most consultants do work weekends, why are they objecting to removing the right to opt out of weekend work?

“The BMA would like to turn this into a politicians vs doctors battle.

“I’m afraid I don’t believe the BMA’s survey, taken by the BMA, gives an accurate picture, not for one minute. NHS consultants have a lot to protect, they are major players during the working week in a lucrative market called ‘private practice’ and……. .enough said. I think. Jeremy Hunt is on a loser if he thinks he can get doctors, especially senior ones, to make many changes, that do not suit them, to their ‘terms and conditions'”


Doctors – private work hitting NHS patients – conflict of interest?

Something else we already know! – NHS doctors who work in private healthcare “on the side” are directly harming the health service, a senior consultant has said. In an article in the medical journal the BMJ, cardiologist Dr John Dean said that he had stopped working in the private sector after realising the “direct adverse affects on the NHS”

What took him so long to work that out?

BMA‘Coining it in’ while our NHS festers!

Many experienced NHS doctors run or work in a private practice alongside their NHS work. There are no rules against it in principle but consultant contracts stipulate there must be no conflict of interest between the two.

However, Dr Dean, who has supplemented his main income from Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust with private work, writes that any time spent in the private sector deprives the NHS of consultants’ hours, and warned that private practice creates “a perverse incentive” to increase NHS waiting times.

“I realised that, in all conscience, I could not go on with it,” he writes. “no matter how high I set my own moral and ethical standards I could not escape the fact that I was involved in a business where the conduct of some was so venal, it bordered on criminal – the greedy preying on the needy.”

The British Medical Association (BMA), the doctors’ professional body and union, said that contracts made clear there should be no conflict of interest with NHS work, and that consultants who wanted to work privately must first offer to do extra NHS work, and consider the NHS “the priority”.

Cooper. C 2015 The Independent 6th May 2015 P. 4

“A rolling scandal for years – A fiscal review of the cost of private practice doctors and the NHS resources they use is long overdue. However, it’s just another of the UK’s disgraceful ‘boys club’ rip offs – aren’t they payed enough?”