Government plans to create a 24/7 "Tesco NHS" are ridiculous, according to the leader of the British Medical Association (BMA).
Speaking at this week's BMA Conference [23-27 June] Dr Mark Porter said it was simply not possible to create the same standard of care in hospitals at weekends and nights when the health service could "barely afford its current model".
Vote of no confidence in Health Secretary
The NHS has made 24/7 care one of its key priorities in its review of urgent and emergency care but delegates at the same meeting also passed a vote of no confidence in Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Dr Porter said: "Let us be clear. We all want urgent care at weekends and evening to be of the same high standards as patient can expect on weekdays.
"But the calls we sometimes hear for a Tesco NHS, full service, 24/7, are just ridiculous when the health service can barely afford its current model."
He went on to suggest that Tesco opened on Sundays because it made a profit, but making the NHS provide a comprehensive service at the weekend would cost money for a "public service with a fixed inadequate budget".
Last week NHS England highlighted figures that showed if the same standard of care could be provided seven days a week more than 4,400 lives could be saved each year.
Barriers to improving care conditions
Earlier at the conference the BMA reported on feedback from 1,000 medics about the current conditions.
Nine in 10 complained they had faced obstacles when trying to make improvements. Half cited a lack of time as a barrier, 39% financial constraints and a third too much bureaucracy.
Addressing the concerns raised, Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter praised the work doctors were doing but accepted the health service was facing challenges.