A “flexible” deadline for the new non-urgent NHS phone number is needed to avoid risks to patient care, claims the British Medical Association (BMA).
In a letter to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, the BMA outlines its “serious misgivings” over the four NHS 111 pilots to date.
It cites Shropshire GPs who are reportedly worried patients will actually receive lower quality care as the clinicians who triage all calls to their out-of-hours provider are to be replaced by non-clinicians when NHS 111 takes over.
The BMA has urged the government to conduct a ‘pause’ in the scheme’s roll out to allow clinical commissioners to make the decisions for their local area.
“The results of the [NHS 111] pilots are due to be published imminently and we are worried that the strict deadline in place at the moment means lessons from these won’t be learned and mistakes will just be repeated,” said Dr Laurence Buckman, Chairman of the BMA’s GPs Committee.
He warns that without this ‘pause’, the government could end up implementing a scheme, which could “unnecessarily overburden GP surgeries, reduce the cost of out-of-hours services and ultimately cost the taxpayer money.”
The BMA also fears the procurement of providers to run NHS 111 in non-pilot areas is being rushed through without careful reference to the pilots and decisions are not being driven by clinical commissioners who will ultimately be responsible for NHS 111 in their area come April 2013.
In a statement to MiP, Public Health minister Anne Milton said the government will consider the BMA’s concerns. ”We agree that any long-term decision should be made with full approval from local commissioning groups. They should be fully engaged with the approach to delivering NHS 111,” she said.