Junior doctors and other staff this weekend joined their consultant colleagues in a twitterstorm using the hashtag #ImInWorkJeremy twitterstorm. Jeremy Hunt had explained his idea for 7 day working by consultant doctors on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme just before the weekend.
Make no mistake, consultants are working this weekend also. They are obliged to. In fact, many of the current generation of consultants are the same individuals that were exploited as junior doctors before the 1998 New Deal that put an end to unsafe 100 hour working weeks.
Indeed, it is a product of the New Deal and the European Working Time Directive which necessitates consultants personally to undertake a greater share of the work of their teams than ever before.
These dedicated doctors need no lessons on vocation and professionalism, and it was Hunt's implied slur against these traits that I suspect has caused the outrage.
Hunt suggested that 6000 deaths per year could be prevented by changing working patterns.
Firstly, this number seems to have been derived from unpublished data which cannot be scrutinised (FullFact).
Secondly, the phenomenon of a higher death rate at the weekend extends even to the US, where working patterns are very different (Margaret McCartney).
Thirdly, if we divert even more consultants to work at the weekend instead of the week, weekday services will inevitably decline and harm will ensue.
Fourthly, as the BMA point out, given that consultants are already working at the weekend, what is really needed to make 7 day work a reality is for all support services to be ramped up overnight and at weekend - from radiographers and lab workers to social workers, care agencies and public transport.
Sorry, Mr Hunt, we do not have such a 24 hour society. Citizens have a right to a family life.
Given the woolly statistics, I do not believe the drive for 7 day working has anything to do with patient safety. If it were, it would be piloted and properly evaluated for the inevitable risks to patient safety.
No, this is all about efficiency savings. The only way to pay for these changes will be to close hospitals.
WHICH HOSPITALS WILL YOU CLOSE, MR HUNT?
Reproduced by kind permission of Dr Grimes.
This blog was originally published on John's personal blog, and can be read in full here