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Jane Bates: Does the public really want a 24-hour NHS? 

With 8am surgery seen as too early a start, and evening appointments deemed too late, round-the-clock care for non-emergencies may not be that popular.

With 8am surgery seen as too early a start, and evening appointments deemed too late, round-the-clock care for non-emergencies may not be that popular


Picture: iStock

The dawn chorus was starting to tune up and the sun was beginning to yawn and stretch when I rang a patient about her forthcoming surgery and gave her the fright of her life. 

Having been on duty for a while, I had forgotten that the world was only beginning to stir, and that there are certain night-time/day-time conventions by which the rest of the human race abides.  

So when the doctor asked me to call a patient, I had to demur. ‘I can’t,’ I replied. ‘It’s not even 8am. They’ll think it’s a family emergency.’ 

‘But we’re a 24-hour NHS,’ somebody muttered, as everyone does these days since health secretary Jeremy Hunt implied that round-the-clock health service provision was a dream to be achieved, not the day-to-day state of affairs that has been in place since the year dot.

It is not just the emergency services that operate 24-hours a day, all nurses do – ask any patient who has had their catheter bag emptied and a thermometer stuck in an orifice at 4am.  

The only complaint our department receives is that we start our surgery list at 8am – far too early. As for evening appointments – far too late. So does the public really want a 24-hour NHS apart from emergency cover? 

Perhaps this is worth checking out, Mr Hunt, before making any more sweeping assertions. 


Jane Bates is an ophthalmology nurse in Hampshire 

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