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Non-emergency number needs “urgent” changes

15 April 2013

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“Urgent changes” must be made to the NHS 111 service because of issues which which need to be resolved, according to GP leaders. 

Concerns over the roll out of the service were expressed in NHS England’s monthly board meeting on Friday, and NHS Clinical Commissioners have said further testing is needed. 

In the board meeting, Barbara Hakin, NHS England’s interim deputy chief executive put forward many questions about the non-emergency telephone service. 

She said: “Was the design and specification right to deliver what we want? Was it commissioned appropriately, was there more that could have been done on a national level? 

“Which providers did not provide the service that was commissioned?” 

NHS England will review the questions “urgently” as part of their role to support commissioners, Hakin said. 

Patient safety

Co-chair of NHS Clinical Commissioners, an independent group which supports commissioners,  Dr Steve Kell said: “A single national number may be an appropriate way for people to access urgent care, however local commissioners must be given the ability for ensuring that when the system is accessed the public in their area are provided with an appropriate localised solution.

“This will work best if the solution reflects local provision and local knowledge.” 

NHS 111 has a range of providers across the UK, as it was commissioned nationally. 

There have been reports of long waits for patients who had requested a “call back”, raising concerns over patient risk. 

In late March the British Medical Association (BMA) called for the launch of the service to be delayed. 

BMA GPs committee chair Laurence Buckman said: “We cannot sacrifice patient safety in order to meet a political deadline for the launch of a service that doesn’t work properly.

“In some areas, such as Greater Manchester, NHS 111 effectively crashed because it was unable to cope with the number of calls it was receiving.”