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Provide weekend access to the key diagnostic tests needed to support urgent care

Last updated: 12:24pm 16 May 2019

…with weekend access to the key diagnostic tests needed to support urgent care.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.69

Our verdict

The previous government, under Prime Minister David Cameron, committed in its manifesto to “provide a truly seven-day NHS” with “hospitals properly staffed, so that the quality of care is the same every day of the week”. That turned out to be a controversial ambition. Some in the medical profession agreed with the need for improved access to diagnostic tests, but the question of how to manage the increased workload to implement the changes led to unprecedented strike action by doctors.

This government has maintained the commitment to a “seven-day health service”, and this policy promises to ensure weekend access to “key diagnostic tests”.

Since the election, in March 2018 one of the objectives outlined in the Government’s mandate to NHS England for 2018-19 was:

“Access to consistent standards of urgent and emergency hospital care, senior doctors and diagnostics no matter which day of the week you are admitted”

So the commitment is ongoing. In terms of measuring progress, NHS England’s acute trusts completed a self-assessment survey in March-April 2018 which included provision of diagnostic tests as one of its “priority clinical standards”. The results showed:

“…33% of the population are served by trusts that achieve all four of the priority clinical standards, with a further 35% of the population covered by trusts which meet three out of four standards.”

A new way of measuring seven-day hospital services is being introduced, so this requires careful monitoring. But for now, according to the NHS’s own figures, this has to be marked ‘in progress’. To move it to ‘done’ we will need to see a significant improvement in the percentage of the population with seven-day access to diagnostic tests. Follow this policy to stay up to date.

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