Re: Spring 2013 - Page 16

to stay open all hours Patients may expect longer waits at evenings and weekends but a recent study found more critical problems with out-of-hours services. Hospital patients with serious conditions like stroke or kidney failure are up to 10% more likely to die if admitted at the weekend according to analysis of official hospital figures in England. Many of the clinical negligence cases that I see took place out-of-hours, when understaffing and lack of senior expertise can lead to breakdowns in care. While the arguments for a truly 24/7 NHS are far from new, the health service is now faced with tackling this issue alongside severe cuts in funding. A crucial factor in the quality of weekend and nighttime services is the presence of consultants and senior doctors. Last December the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges claimed hundreds of deaths a year could be avoided by putting consultants in charge of hospital care every day of the week. Yet consultants say they are far from unwilling to work weekends. Commenting on a recent article on PublicService.co.uk several consultants said they are already working as many hours as the European Working Time Directive allows. They called on managers to put their money where their mouth is and employ more consultants instead of expecting staff to spread themselves ever thinner. Extra pressure is also placed on hospitals by limitations of out-of-hours GP services, with patients going straight to hospital when they might have gone to a GP on a weekday. Sadly, significant investment in face-to-face out-of-hours GP services looks unlikely if George Osbourne and Danny Alexander succeed in their latest call to extend austerity policies into 2015-6. In some hospital services consultants are often on call nearby or even on the premises over