22 Aug 2016

Leaked documents reveal serious ‘7-day NHS’ concerns

Internal Department of Health documents reveal serious concerns about the impact of a 7-day NHS policy.

Documents leaked to Channel 4 News and the Guardian newspaper reveal serious concerns about the impact of a 7-day NHS policy – even in the heart of the Department of Health.

The documents show how some senior civil servants have doubts about the lack of detailed costings, lack of risk assessment of the proposals and the lack of evidence and data to support this policy.

The government’s key pledge to provide a ‘truly 7-day NHS’ by 2020 featured in the Conservative’s election manifesto.

But now there are warnings from within the Department of Health itself, over the risks with this policy. And it is clear from these documents that Ministers and Number 10 have been warned.

One document seen by Channel 4 News dated 25th of July is the Risk Register for 7 day services programme. It includes the risk that there won’t be enough money to meet the deadline for the “complete roll out”, that there isn’t enough data to track performance to ensure the policy can be delivered and crucially, that it won’t be possible to find enough skilled staff “meaning the full service cannot be delivered”.

A second document from a meeting with the 7 Day Services Governance Group says under key risks and issues: “The detailed costs of delivering in hospitals, including accurate estimates of additional workforce requirements are not understood early enough.”

Winter warning

This comes following warnings of serious gaps in hospital rotas and amidst claims today that thousands of operations and appointments are to be cancelled in a bid to stop the NHS buckling under this winter,

Another document titled Building the Evidence Base, reveals that no impact assessments have been done in advance on how 7-day services will affect GPs, hospitals and urgent and Emergency Care.

The Department of Health said in a statement: “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.”

The pledge for a 7-day NHS was at the heart of the bitter dispute with junior doctors.