The prime minister has pledged to make the NHS a “truly” seven day a week service by 2020 if the Conservatives win the next election.
Speaking at his party’s spring forum, David Cameron said: “For years it’s been too hard to access the NHS out of hours.
“But illness doesn’t respect working hours. Heart attacks, major accidents, babies – these things don’t just come from nine to five,” he told delegates in Manchester.
Mr Cameron added: “And the truth is that you are actually more likely to die if you turn up at the hospital at the weekend.
“Some of the resources, like scanners, are not up and running. The key decision-makers aren’t always there,” he said, hinting at efforts to make more consultants work at weekends.
“With a future Conservative government, we would have a truly seven day NHS,” he stated during a wide-ranging speech to supporters ahead of the election on 7 May.
Mr Cameron acknowledged that millions of people were already able to see a GP seven days a week.
But he said: “By 2020 I want this for everyone with hospitals properly staffed, especially for urgent and emergency care, so that everyone will have access to the NHS services they need seven days a week by 2020 – the first country in the world to make this happen.”
“With a future Conservative government, we would have a truly seven day NHS”
Meanwhile, in a busy weekend for the Tories on health, Jeremy Hunt indicated a future Conservative government would meet NHS England’s £8bn spending requirement.
The figure was stated by national NHS leaders in the autumn as the increase required in annual spending on the service by 2020, if it can also make large efficiency savings.
In a Sunday Times interview, the health secretary: “At the last election we were the only party that promised to protect the NHS budget. We didn’t just protect it, we increased it.
“We said to [NHS England chief executive] Simon Stevens, ‘How much do you need for your plan next year, the first year of your five-year plan?’ He said ‘£1.7bn’, and we actually found him £2bn.
“We’re now doing the work as to what the efficiency savings are. The gap might be more than £8bn, it might be less,” said Mr Hunt.
“That will all be settled in the summer when we do the spending-round discussions. We will continue to spend more in real terms year in, year out,” he added.