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Seven-day NHS - it's not just about doctors

Tagged In:  NHS

Staffing and workforce planning are key to achieving the Government's vision for a seven-day NHS. And that means taking into account everyone from nurses and midwives to radiographers and pharmacists.

The junior doctors' dispute has focused attention on their role in the Department of Health's plans for a seven-day service. However, it's not just hospital doctors, consultants and GPs who are central to making the seven-day model work. True seven-day healthcare is impossible without the vital input of other NHS staff, including nurses and allied health professionals.

"Adding only junior doctors to the equation is a bit like turning up for a Saturday game of football with eleven strikers, but no midfielders, no defenders and no goalkeeper, " said one junior doctor in a recent opinion piece in the Telegraph.

Royal College of Nursing Chief Executive Janet Davies agrees. "We will be key to the success of NHS seven-day healthcare," she wrote in The Guardian earlier this year.  "Nurses working in senior decision-making roles deliver complex care, help patients live with long-term conditions, arrange prompt discharge from hospital, treat minor injuries, prescribe medication, and refer patients for other treatments."

As we discussed in a previous blog, leveraging the skills of physiotherapists and occupational therapists is also a key part of a seven-day service pathway. But there are other allied health professionals whose expertise is invaluable if the NHS is to provide a fully integrated healthcare system at weekends as well as on weekdays. They include specialist radiology technicians, sonographers and pharmacists.

Concerns have been expressed about achieving adequate staffing levels to deliver the seven-day service, not least by parliament's influential spending watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee. However, the Department of Health insists that its plans are robust: "By 2020, we expect to have 11,420 more doctors working in the NHS, coupled with 10,000 nursing, midwife and allied health professional training places through our reforms."

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has been leading the way. Since June 2015 its state-of-the-art Specialist Emergency Care Hospital has been offering patients 24/7/365 access to senior consultants and the midwifery team, as well as a full range of diagnostic tests and scans.

As seven-day services roll out across the UK, more and more opportunities will hopefully be created for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals to play their part in transforming our healthcare system.

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