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Commissioning leaders call for delay in NHS 111 rollout

The independent body that represents CCGs has called on NHS England to delay the rollout of the urgent care phone number, warning delays and abandoned phone calls have put patients at risk.

NHS Clinical Commissioners also said the ‘top down imposition’ of the rollout of the number had led to local commissioners’ worries being ignored.

The news comes after Pulse revealed a leaked internal NHS report on Friday that showed patients in 30 different areas waited in some cases for more than an hour for a call-back from NHS 111 over the Easter period - with the worst example seeing a patient waiting 11 hours for a call back.

Pulse obtained the NHS 111 Easter SitRep report sent to managers, a summary of NHS 111 performance over Easter, which also showed that 40% of calls to the number were abandoned in some regions.

A statement from an NHS Clinical Commissioners spokesperson said the rollout should be delayed until commissioners could be assured it was safe for patients.

She said: ‘Local commissioners are keen to ensure that patients have access to high quality, accessible urgent care, and it is clearly not acceptable that patients may be put at risk and their calls may not be answered.’

They added: ‘There is an urgent need for issues surrounding 111 to be resolved. NHS England must call a halt to the further roll-out of NHS 111 until each region has been rigorously tested and assurances can be given that the system is resilient and patients will receive appropriate advice.’

Dr Steve Kell, co-chair of the NHS Clinical Commissioners leadership group, said: ‘A single national number, NHS 111, 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.’

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Readers' comments (1)

  • NHS 111 in our area (North East) is already resulting in very significant increase in the use of ambulances. From the 111 letters we receive these are almost always inappropriate. This will inevitably result in increased risk to people who genuinely need emergency services. We are now seeing increased demand for GP services from patients who are informed they need to speak to or see their GP within 2 or 6 hours. This adds pressure to GP surgeries and when these expectations cannot be achieved patients may resort to either attending A+E or call an ambulance--adding further burden to the already overstretched emergency services.
    The system is designed to be risk averse. What it needs is to emulate the best of GP services which involves risk management but this is not being planned. It is being imposed centrally and is about control and not about care. It is increasing risk to patient care but the political cost of reversing the policy is so great that it will lumber on for some time before it is acknowledged not only to be poor VFM but also to increase overall risk to NHS patients. A remarkable state of affairs so soon after the Francis report.

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