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Safety investigation launched into Covid helpline

by Emma Wilkinson
19 March 2021

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An investigation into NHS 111’s response to people calling with potential symptoms of Covid-19 during the pandemic has been launched by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch.

It comes after number of concerns were raised about delays in answering or failing to return telephone calls, the HSIB said.

The investigation will also look into concerns that telephone advice given did not fully respond to the severity of the reported symptoms.

In response to the pandemic, NHS 111 introduced a Covid-19 National Response Service (CNRS) to assess patients reporting symptoms of coronavirus.

HSIB said it would be looking at both the CRNS and the linked Covid-19 Clinical Assessment Service (CCAS) through which GPs offered remote review of patients calling NHS 111.

In August it was reported that CCAS had stopped nurses and allied health professionals – such as paramedics – from handling patient calls after an audit revealed more than half did not pass safety criteria.

At least one patient suffered ‘potential harm’ due to a ‘serious’ incident with the way their assessment was handled by staff and South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust which runs the service said they would provide additional training.

GPs working in the CCAS service include locums and those returning to practice as well as salaried GPs and partners.

In September, GPs working for the hotline told Management in Practice’s sister title Pulse they had been facing incorrect, delayed or ‘complete non-payment’ for their work on the service.

By October the CCAS was 300 GPs short as call volumes began to rise and restarted recruitment in order to staff the service.