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Routine NHS services 'to be daily'
Routine NHS services are to be provided seven days a week, a new body has proposed.
The health service "needs to offer greater customer convenience" by running throughout the week, said the NHS Commissioning Board (NHSCB).
The organisation, set up under the Health and Social Care Act, has published its first planning guidance to the NHS.
Hospitals and GP practices will provide services seven days a week, the report states, claiming that the move is "essential" to offer a more patient-focused service. It will also improve clinical outcomes and reduce costs, the report states.
A spokeswoman for NHSCB, responsible for £95.6 billion of the NHS's 2013-14 budget for England, said medical director Sir Bruce Keogh will establish a forum to find a way to implement a seven-day service. He will report on his findings in autumn next year.
As a first step, the forum will look at diagnostics and urgent and emergency care, said the spokeswoman.
NHSCB chief executive Sir David Nicholson said: "We want to make the NHS the best customer service in the world by doing more to put patients in the driving seat. We are determined to focus on outcomes and the rights people have under the NHS Constitution, as well as ensure those most in need gain most from the support we provide."
Sir David described it as a "really important moment for the NHS", telling BBC Breakfast: "We've made great progress over the last few years, but it's really important now that we move on. We've not always treated all of our patients in the best way we possibly could and there are improvements that we need to make, and we are facing a major financial challenge."
Asked how the Government would afford to pay more medical staff at weekends, Sir David said: "It is perfectly possible within the resource envelope that we have at the moment to enable us to do this. The question is one of priorities, about where you allocate the resources. We think there is enough money in the system as a whole to enable us to do that."
Dr Mark Porter, of the British Medical Association, said: "Today's guidance is an extremely ambitious plan for the NHS in England, particularly at this time of major structural change and continuing financial pressure. While many of the aims are laudable, new clinical commissioning groups will have the very real challenge of putting these aspirations into practice."