Hospital staff move towards working seven-day week

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HEALTH bosses have taken a major step towards full ­seven-day working in the region’s hospitals.

A pilot, to be launched next month at St John’s Hospital in Livingston, will see increased staffing levels on Saturdays and Sundays.

It is hoped that the move will lead to patients being treated quicker, see them discharged more often at weekends and decrease the burden on hard-pressed doctors and consultants. The model, which signals the first step towards more services being offered at evenings and weekends as a way of coping with soaring demand for healthcare, is likely to be rolled out in major Edinburgh hospitals if it proves successful.

It is understood that the new system, which will see more nurse practitioners and ­clinical support workers hired, has been broadly welcomed by medical staff at St John’s.

Jane McNulty, a lead nurse practitioner with NHS Lothian who will oversee the pilot, said increasing what hospitals could do out of hours was key as Scotland faces a population boom, particularly amongst the elderly.

“I think it’s an important step forward,” she said. “It’s acknowledged that hospitals are under a lot more pressure and we need to look at doing things differently. As with all change, there’s often resistance, but this particular pilot has been welcomed by all staff groups. Because of the extra resources patients in hospital at weekends should experience a more timely response.”

The new team will largely focus on inpatients at ­weekend with the two clinical ­support workers also to help with physio services.

The three new nurse practitioners will assess and review patients, supporting junior doctors. It is hoped that one of the benefits of the change will be blood test results being available faster.

The new model, which will see a single multi-skilled team care for patients across departments, is based on the hospital at night system, which was introduced across Lothian’s major hospital sites in 2005.

The hospital at weekend team will focus on medicine and head and neck departments, but excludes areas such as A&E, critical care, paediatrics and obstetrics and neonates, which need their own specialist teams.

The pilot will run until Spring next year, when its ­success will be assessed.

A spokeswoman for the British Medical Association Scotland said: “Patients rightly expect to have access to high-quality care whenever they need it and many health professionals already work throughout the night and at weekends to provide this. NHS boards need to think about how these services are designed and provided, and – crucially – how quality and safety can be assured and it will be interesting to see what this pilot delivers.”

Use of the policy will increase as time goes on

OFFERING more hospital services at evenings and weekends is likely to increase in future years.

In June, the Evening News revealed that high-level talks had taken place at NHS Lothian over the prospect of offering more routine appointments out-of-hours. Health bosses saw the move as a way of reducing reliance on the private sector, where it spent £12 million in 2012-13, as it did not have enough staff or room to treat all of its patients itself.

Melanie Hornett, who has recently been appointed director of unscheduled care and was previously nurse director, said at the time that the NHS had to adapt to cope with more patients aged 75 and over. In recent months, staff have begun to carry some operations have into the early evening.