Victory for Sunday Times NHS campaign as consultants will be forced to work weekends

The Sunday Times has celebrated a victory in its Safe Weekend Care campaign as sweeping changes to the way the NHS works at weekends have been announced by its medical director Sir Bruce Keogh.

He has promised to force consultants to work weekends (when hospitals have traditionally been staffed by junior doctors) and to also make routine surgery available at weekends.

Hospital support services – such as pharmacies, physiotherapy and occupational therapy – will run every day, as will more diagnostic tests.

He said the changes will “undo more than 50 years of custom and practice which have failed to put the interests of patients first”.

Keogh said: “The Sunday Times Safe Weekend Care campaign has made it absolutely clear that this is what the public want.

“The public own our NHS and we would be failing as citizens of this country if it doesn’t happen.”

The Sunday Times noted that the changes will come too late for Rebecca Ben-Nejma who was admitted to Maidstone Hospital on a Friday afternoon suffering from a suspected ectopic pregnancy. Instead of having the scan she needed, she was sent home with painkillers and asked to return on the Monday – the Sunday Times reports. She collapsed and died on the Monday morning.

In a leader column, the paper said: “This has been an award-winning Sunday Times campaign, along with our push to expose the evils of modern slavery. The Government is about the publish the Modern Slavery Bill. These campaigns are making a difference.

“Our figures, compiled by Dr Foster Intelligence, show death rates 20 per cent higher among patients admitted as emergencies at the weekend and death rates after surgery 24 per cent higher for patients who have had their operations just before the weekend and are recovering in hospital on Saturday and Sundays.”

Earlier this month, the Sunday Times campaign for a seven-day NHS was named Campaign of the Year at the Press Gazette British Journalism Awards.

The British Journalism Awards judges said the Sunday Times Safe Weekend Care campaign "was well presented, planned and coordinated from beginning to end. It was backed up by great reporting and research and has succeeded in getting a national scandal addressed at the highest level.”

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