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Shortage of nurses and other key workers may hinder seven-day NHS, leaked documents reveal

The NHS may lack enough nurses and other key staff to make a seven-day service work properly, leaked Department of Health (DH) documents reportedly reveal.
7-Day NHS protest

Seven-day NHS protest Picture: Alamy

The NHS may lack enough nurses and other key staff to make a seven-day service work properly, leaked Department of Health (DH) documents reportedly reveal.

The leaked files, obtained by The Guardian and Channel 4 News , are said to show that senior officials have voiced concern over the lack of evidence supporting health secretary Jeremy Hunts flagship policy to improve care at weekends.

Channel 4 News reported that one document, a 'risk register' for the seven-day services programme, dated July 25, refers to the possibility that there will not be enough resources to meet the deadline for the complete roll-out of the policy.

Staffing concerns

Staffing levels are also highlighted, as well as concerns that Brexit could impact both finances and staffing, as around 55,000 NHS staff - including 28,000 nurses - are from the European Union.

RCN

 Alamy
Seven-day NHS protest Picture: Alamy

The NHS may lack enough nurses and other key staff to make a seven-day service work properly, leaked Department of Health (DH) documents reportedly reveal.

The leaked files, obtained by The Guardian and Channel 4 News, are said to show that senior officials have voiced concern over the lack of evidence supporting health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s flagship policy to improve care at weekends.

Channel 4 News reported that one document, a 'risk register' for the seven-day services programme, dated July 25, refers to the possibility that there will not be enough resources to meet the deadline for the complete roll-out of the policy.

Staffing concerns

Staffing levels are also highlighted, as well as concerns that Brexit could impact both finances and staffing, as around 55,000 NHS staff - including 28,000 nurses - are from the European Union.

RCN director of nursing, policy and practice Donna Kinnair said: 'We now know that the government admits what we have always argued – that an already overstretched service cannot be expected to do even more with the same resources without putting patients at risk.

'With 24,000 nursing vacancies at the last count, and years of pay restraint making staff retention even more difficult, the government needs to accept that unless there is significant investment there will simply not be enough nurses in the NHS to deliver their vision for seven day care.

'For these plans to win the trust of patients and nurses, the government needs to demonstrate how it will provide the resources needed to provide seven day services without making staffing levels unsafe and compromising patient care.'

Staff 'a barrier'

NHS staff were even described as a ‘barrier’ to the seven-day service plans by the DH in the leaked documents, and accused of not believing ‘in the case for change’.

Pledging to question Hunt over whether he had misled parliament, shadow health secretary Diane Abbott said: ‘The government is undermining the NHS with plans it knew to be unworkable.’

Workforce and funding challenges need to be overcome before a seven-day NHS service becomes ‘realistic’ said Chris Ham, chief executive of The King’s Fund think tank.

‘The government must be honest with the public about what the NHS can deliver with the resources it has been given. It is not credible to argue that it can continue to meet rising demand for services, maintain standards of care and deliver new commitments such as seven day services within its current budget,’ he said.

Worst case scenarios

The DH insisted that a risk assessment was by definition a look at the worse case scenarios.

A spokesperson said: 'Over the past six years eight independent studies have set out the evidence for a "weekend effect" - unacceptable variation in care across the week. This government is the first to tackle this, with a commitment to a safer, seven day NHS for patients and £10 billion to fund the NHS's own plan for the future, alongside thousands of extra doctors and nurses on our wards.'

 

 

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