The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has reiterated his commitment, and that of NHS England, to ensuring that his seven-day NHS vision is realised.
This policy will remain in place despite the resignation of David Cameron as prime minister, and his subsequent replacement by Theresa May.
In a written ministerial statement, Hunt indicated that he expected NHS England to “make further progress on the priority of rolling out the seven-day NHS commitment including ‘to improve access to GP services, particularly in evenings and at the weekends”.
Despite Hunt’s apparent determination to continue with this policy, GP leaders have been scathing about the seven-day concept, describing its continuation as idiocy.
Hunt’s statement began by reaffirming his belief in the notion of a seven-day NHS.
“The mandate for 2015/16 emphasised that the NHS should be there when people need it; providing equally good care seven days of the week. I look to you to continue to support the NHS to deliver the same high quality urgent and emergency care regardless of when patients need to use services and to improve access to GP services, particularly in evenings and at the weekends.”
Hunt continued by underlining the longer term vision which he has for the health service.
“I welcome the progress that you have made this year and I expect you to continue working together with your system partners in order to make further progress on this priority, in line with the Government’s mandate for 2016-17 and our longer term goals for 2020.”
This commitment to the seven-day concept by the Conservative party has come as something of a surprise, particularly as prominent individuals indicated in recent weeks that there could be a U-turn on the subject.
A senior policy adviser recently revealed that routine seven-day GP appointments would no longer be a priority following the resignation of Cameron.
This was seen as very much a brainchild of the former prime minister, with Cameron having continually promoted the importance of weekend prioritisation in the health service.
Family Doctor Association chair Dr Peter Swinyard has already condemned the policy of Hunt, suggesting that it simply makes no sense in the existing climate.
“It is just confoundedly idiotic. There is no funding sufficient in the health service, there is no staffing sufficient in the health service, to provide a five-day service that is good. And to try and spread out the resources we have for providing a five-day service to provide a seven-day service is beyond ridiculous.”
NHS trusts recently announced a collected deficit in the region of £2.5 billion for the previous financial year.