The roll-out of the new urgent care number NHS 111 has been extended to October 2013 “in some cases” following discussions with CCG leaders.
In a letter to all health and social care professinals, the DH’s National Director for Improvement and efficiency Jim Easton said the extension of “up to six months” would be granted by an “expert clinical panel” and should not delay roll-out in those areas that are ready to move ahead.
CCGs seeking an extension have been advised to submit an application in writing to their SHA Cluster Senior Responsible Officer, who is then required to pass the information onto the expert clinical panel by Friday 27 July 2012.
It is expected the criteria for extension applications will be published “shortly”.
Easton said the longer deadline will help ensure sufficient time can be taken “fully to engage local clinicians and build delivery models for NHS 111 that have the support and endorsement of all local stakeholders”.
Dr Laurence Buckman, Chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP Committee, welcomed the delay to the roll-out of the new NHS urgent care service.
“The principle behind NHS 111 – making patient access to urgent NHS services easier – is a good one, unfortunately the speed of the rollout was putting this at risk,” he said.
“Hopefully now there will be sufficient time to ensure local clinicians are properly involved so services can be designed that will be safe, reliable and genuinely benefit patients.”
Rick Stern, Chief Executive of the NHS Alliance, also said the extension shows an acknowledgement of the “importance of local decision-making”.