Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have been blocked from applying for the DH-promised six-month extension for being “too far” down the procurement path.
In a letter to all health and social care professionals dated June 2012, the DH’s National Director for Improvement and efficiency Jim Easton said the roll-out of the new urgent care number NHS 111 could be extended by up to six months “in some cases” following discussions with CCG leaders.
Chair of Cumbria CCG, Dr Hugh Reeve, said while the CCG has been “pretty engaged” in the NHS 111 service, concerns over the “insufficient” piloting of the scheme led the CCG to consider applying for the six month extension.
However, Cumbria CCG was advised it wouldn’t qualify for the extension as it was too far along the NHS 111 procurement process.
“After considering applying for the extension, we were told CCGs could only delay the NHS 111 process if it was not in the process of procurement,” he said.
“The [deadline extension] seems too hard to do in practice and it appears only a small number of CCGs are eligible for the extension anyway.”
Cumbria CCG has awarded its NHS 111 contract to NHS Direct for three years beginning April 2013.
A spokesperson confirmed the extension to the NHS 111 procurement process was available “only for those who needed more time to procure the best services for patients”.
It is claimed the application criteria was put in place to “enable patients to access NHS 111 as soon as possible”.
Dr Richard Vautrey, Deputy Chair of the British Medical Association’s GP Committee, said the news of CCGs being blocked from applying for the NHS 111 extension “justifies” the organisation’s concerns.
“This reflects the concerns we have been raising right from the beginning that CCGs were not fully involved and able to raise concerns about the NHS 111 procurement process,” he said.
“Now effectively CCGs are being told they have little option but to carry on down a road which they are uncomfortable about travelling.”
Despite the BMA GPC’s concerns, Dr Phil Moore, Chair of Kingston CCG, said he feels CCGs have been given enough time “that is appropriate” to make a success of the NHS 111 service.