Have senior doctors work at weekends or face huge fines, hospitals told

The days of hospitals relying on junior doctors at the weekend are numbered, the director of NHS England has said

Hospitals that fail to deliver the same standard of care at weekends as during the week are to face huge fines, the director of NHS England has announced.

Sir Bruce Keogh plans to eradicate the practice of relying on junior doctors at weekends with consultants being conspicuously absent, he has said.

The move follows a major review of seven-day services amid concerns over high death rates of patients treated on Saturdays and Sundays.

Recent research found that 4,400 lives a year are lost because of inadequate staff cover.

Under the plans to be published today trusts will be contractually-bound to run a full service seven days a week - with breaches costing them as much as 2.5 per cent of their annual income of up to £500 million.

Hospitals that refuse or fail to provide safe weekend care could also face losing their right to use junior doctors - a prospect that fills hospitals with “horror”, Sir Keogh told The Sunday Times.

A seven-day NHS would “undo more than 50 years of accumulated custom and practice which have failed to put the interests of patients first”, he told the newspaper.

Within three years all patients admitted as an emergency to a hospital ward will see a consultant within 14 hours, and those already in hospital will be reviewed by the senior level doctors every 24 hours.

Routine surgery will also be available for minor conditions, such as hernias, as well as blood tests, heart checks and biopsies, saving patients from having to take time off work.

Following the review, services such as X-rays, ultrasounds, CT and MRI scans will be carried out promptly at weekends.

“Two things are key to this,” he said. “One is the availability of diagnostic tests at the weekend, because the key to treating somebody is a diagnosis.

“Then you need someone experienced to interpret those tests and to institute the right treatment.

“People are still kept waiting at the weekend for a diagnosis. We have a system that is not built around the convenience of patients and is not compassionate to patients for part of the week.”

Dismissing criticisms that plans could be extremely costly, Sir Keogh said the changes will cost just 2 per cent of the NHS's operating budget of £97 billion.

He argued that theatres, consulting rooms and recovery wards left empty over the weekend are inefficient and a seven-day service could mean fewer resources are required.

NHS England declined to comment on the review ahead of its publication.

Dean Royles, chief executive of the NHS Employers organisation, said: “Seven-day working is probably the most important issue facing the NHS at the current time, and movement in this direction is essential if we are to ensure its sustainable long-term future.

“The NHS can't afford to sit back and rest on the laurels of its 65-year history.”

A British Medical Association (BMA) spokeswoman said: “The BMA has been clear in its support for consistently high quality patient care being delivered seven days a week.

“Doctors firmly believe that patient outcome should not be affected by what day of the week they fall ill.

She added however that seven-day care is a “complicated problem which will not be easily resolved by one single 'quick fix”'.

'It's not just about having more consultants, it's also about having enough diagnostic and support staff and community facilities to ensure a doctor can do basic things like order a scan, a blood test or discharge a patient on a weekend,” she said.

News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport