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Rise in ambulance calls in NHS 111 pilot areas

Official figures show an 8% rise in ambulance attendances in areas of the country that are piloting the Government's new urgent care number over the past year.

This compares with a 3% increase in ambulance attendances from January 2011 to February 2012 across the rest of the country, and comes after warnings from the GPC that the rollout is processing too quickly.

The figures also show visits to A&E have increased by 3% in those areas where NHS 111 has been rolled out, compared with 2% in non-pilot areas in the 12 months preceding February 2012.

GP out-of-hours, urgent care and walk-in centre visits were lower in areas with pilot NHS 111 schemes across the same period, with a 6% rise compared with 17% across England.

In June, the Government announced that CCGs could apply for a six-month delay in their rollout of NHS 111 after accepting GPC concerns that the looming April 2013 deadline for introducing the new 24/7 urgent care service was too tight for some CCGs.

But Pulse revealed last week that only eight out of 212 CCGs across the country did so.

GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden said the increase in ambulance and A&E use was partly due to the ‘indecent haste' in implementation, and said the implementation may increase NHS costs.

He said: ‘We said this would happen, but people keep running headlong. Rushing this when it is a patient safety issue is something doctors and nurses cannot sign up to.'

He added that the figures highlight what happens when you try to ‘dumb down' triage: ‘I have always said that the men and women doing triage need to be the most expert person available.'

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Surely this is partly due to "the computer says call for an urgent 999 ambulance to take you to A&E".
    I agree with Dr Holden. I am sure that protocol driven inexperienced triage staff send more to A&E than the experienced GP/nursing staff.

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  • As one of the only clinical staff trainers in a recent go live pilot, i think greater problems will arise from the language the 111 support tool uses: we cover a large multi-cultural and transient population who simply do not understand the questions, this leads to positive incorrect answers and delays. In one audited call the call handler spent three minutes assessing whether a child was breathing & concious as the caller could not understand the term 'limp & floppy or 'like a ragdoll'.

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