‘7 day NHS’ sounds more stupid every time I hear it

Most people when they hear “7 day NHS” probably think, “GPs open 7 days a week”. Beyond that, nobody knows what it means. The more I’ve thought about it, the more ridiculous it sounds.

Let’s ignore GPs for a second. I’m a hospital specialist so I tend to ignore them because they probably save thousands more lives than me and that makes me feel inferior. Bastards.

To put this into context, there is no elective service that runs 7 days a week.

Specialist stuff

For instance, there is a neurologist – let’s call him Dr Brain (obviously) – who comes to the hospital I work at once a week. He’s does an outpatient clinic there and occasionally sees inpatients if he gets the referral at the right time.

Dr Brain works primarily at a central teaching hospital. He does this clinic to facilitate patients requiring neurological outpatient care who live nearer my district general hospital. This is a good service and most patients will make time in their day to attend their neuro appointment at the local hospital on a Tuesday rather than have to travel into the city, though that option is still available.

However, this is not a 7 day-a-week service. Arguably, for a true 7 day-a-week service, Dr Brain would provide a clinic every day, am and pm for the whole week. This would be a colossal waste of resources.

Not-so-specialist stuff



Let’s take something more routine.

Colonoscopy is a procedure where a surgeon or gastroenterologist inserts a fibreoptic camera into your colon via your anus to look at the inside of your colon. Lets assume a colorectal surgeon – let’s call him Mr Bumcutter – does a colonoscopy list once a week. There may be one or two other surgeons who perform colonoscopies – Ms Bottomcamera and Miss Anusvideoer.

Altogether, let’s say there is a colonoscopy clinic on Monday and Thursday, am and pm. This is probably not an unreasonable representation of a district general hospital. However, a theoretical 7-day NHS would have colonoscopies performed every day because, well, 7 day-NHS.

Why this matters

I’m being slightly facetious here but “7 day-NHS” is completely meaningless. Either, the Health Secretary is suggesting every single service should be provided 7 days a week, a clearly ridiculous proposition (see above).

Or he’s suggesting that instead of colonoscopies happening on Thursdays, they should happen on Saturdays or Sundays. If you can find me a study that shows more patients would rather have their colon examined on a Sunday than a Thursday or that inconveniencing Ms Bumcamera by asking her to attend on Sunday improves her performance, please do. Otherwise, it would serve no worldly purpose other than inconveniencing what are currently perfectly functional services.

If the Health Secretary is arguing that certain services should be provided 7-days a week, fair enough. He should make that case. He isn’t.

I have no idea what it means

Being somebody who was a young adult during the social media boom of the past 10 years, I struggle not to instinctively add “literally” to everything. But I do literally have no idea what 7 day NHS means.

I don’t know who anybody does.

PS: colonoscopy is a safe procedure and if your doctor, surgeon or gastroenterologist recommend you have one, after discussing risks and benefits, you should have a very good reason for saying no (though it’s your absolute right to do so). Although it can be uncomfortable, most are sedated during the procedure and so remember very little.

Click here for a link to Guy’s and St Thomas’s Having A Colonoscopy leaflet.



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