The NHS should look to community pharmacy as an example of how to care for patients seven days a week, a report by NHS England has said.
NHS England's national medical director Sir Bruce Keogh told commissioners to look at "well-signposted" community pharmacy services for inspiration on how to deliver hospital services at weekends, as part of a three-year plan to provide seven-day services across the NHS.
Sir Bruce set out 10 clinical standards to be implemented by the end of 2016, in a report published on Sunday (December 15). The standards included how quickly a person admitted to hospital should be seen by a consultant and what diagnostic and scientific services should be available over the weekend.
|Commissioners need to develop community services to enable hospitals to deliver seven-day care, the NHS report stated|| |
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A forum, set up under Sir Bruce in February to consider how the NHS could provide urgent and emergency care seven days a week, pointed to evidence from health organisations that mortality rates could be as much as 16 per cent higher in hospitals on a Sunday. Commissioners needed to develop community services, including pharmacy, to reduce unnecessary hospital admissions and enable hospitals to provide "genuine seven-day care", the forum said.
A study of eight NHS trusts conducted on behalf of the forum concluded that it was "achievable" to provide seven-day services in every community, without expecting every hospital to deliver a full range of services every day of the week.
"A useful analogy is access to community pharmacists, which is delivered by a well-signposted selection of pharmacies providing weekend services, without detriment to those that only open on Monday to Friday," the forum said in its report.
The forum recommended that in order to receive funding, commissioners should have to demonstrate they were providing seven-day health services to support discharged patients and prevent unnecessary hospital admissions.
The forum had focused on hospital care, but it recommended that its remit be expanded to look at primary and community health services. It could then report back to NHS England in autumn 2014 with proposals for a "fully integrated" health service that delivered "high quality treatment and care seven days a week".
"If people are to experience genuine seven-day treatment and care, we must look beyond emergency services and beyond the service offered to hospital inpatients. We need to make improvements across primary, community health and social services, removing barriers between organisations," Sir Bruce said.
Last month, Sir Bruce called on the NHS to "harness the skills, experience and accessibility of community pharmacies" by incorporating them into the NHS 111 service and reducing the pressure on emergency services.
What can hospitals learn from community pharmacy about delivering services at the weekend?