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NHS Direct to receive additional funding to extend 0845 service as NHS plans for winter pressures

NHS England will fund an extension of NHS Direct’s 0845 number - despite the service being decomissioned from February - under NHS England’s plans to reduce the winter pressures on the health service.

Board papers released today detail that part of the £15m being devoted to NHS 111 this winter to help ease urgent care pressures will go towards an extension of the doomed 0845 service.

NHS Direct announced last month that it was to close next March, with its 0845 service – which provides telephone advice in areas where NHS 111 is not in full operation – set to close in February.

NHS 111 will be rolled out across the country by the time the 0845 service is decommissioned, with interim providers running the services in the areas where it is not currently live.

But NHS England said that it was funding ‘contingency measures’ including the extension of the 0845 4647 NHS Direct service in some areas to help cope with demand.

GP leaders said this was ‘another sign of the difficulties we have got following the debacle of 111’.

The papers, released in advance of the NHS England board meeting on Friday, said that NHS 111 ‘will play a very large part in helping to manage winter pressures’.

It added that £15m has been allocated to support NHS 111 through the winter period and NHS England has been working with the South Central Ambulance Service NHS Trust (SCAS) ‘to plan for additional capacity to handle the significant additional demand on NHS 111 services which is anticipated over the winter and Christmas periods’.

The ambulance trust will provide ‘additional contingency support for over an additional 9,000 calls per week from 27 November 2013’.

On the £15m being given to NHS 111, the board paper stated: ‘The additional money will also be used to provide a suite of other NHS 111 contingency measures such as the extension of the 0845 4647 NHS Direct service in some areas, and funding for commissioners to improve the quality of their local Directories of Service.’

‘NHS England and SCAS agree that these measures represent the best option to balance risk and available capacity in the system to ensure the service remains a robust access point to urgent care throughout winter.’

But GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said the extension of funding to a decommissioned service was ‘another sign of the difficulties we have got following the debacle of 111’.

He added: ‘It is odd that at a time when practices are being asked to move away from 0844 numbers that NHS England is investing more in the NHS Direct 0845 number.’

Dr Vautrey said that the 0845 service had been working ‘reasonably well’ before the Government brought in NHS 111: ‘It is yet another example that the concerns that we were raising about the system moving too fast in an ill-prepared way and decommissioning a service that was working reasonably well before the new service was robust enough to cope with that.’

Readers' comments (7)

  • Oh dear. Dreadful service! phone tick-box diagnosis by some dozy nurse! Needs to go sooner rather than later.

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  • If you are a GP, failure to reach a standard will result in closure by CQC. If you are any other health provider, your failure is rewarded by more money.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Well the story can be summed up like this:
    Labour Direct Vs Conservative 111.
    Anything else? Not really important........

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  • Peter Swinyard

    £15m buys a lot of (real) health care in general practice. £15m buys a lot of great GP premises developments.
    £15m extends NHS Dire. Wow.

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  • Nhs direct needs to be closed asap. Staff sitting for hours waiting for a call. Not sure how nhs england can justify giving the organisation more taxpayers money.what was once a great service has been reduced to a joke. One wonders how much of said 15 million will be given to conduit to pay their managers hotel bills or the one thousand pound bonus their call handlers are to be given for hitting targets. Nhsd management should hang theirir heads in shame for the shoddy way they have treat their own staff and patients.

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  • As a dozy nurse (anon, 7.08pm) who works for nhs direct, I will be sad to see it go. It is a joke that the government has demolished a wonderful service for the public, which we can now see through the steep rise in a&e attendance etc, helped keep the costs of the nhs down. I believe that the nhs should be separate and not influenced by government, it should be under a quango with a long term sustainable plan. the knee jerk reaction every 4 years wastes money and often provides no quantifiable increase in care delivery to the patient.

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  • Dear Rachael,
    I am sorry that nursing colleagues are experiencing disruption with the closure of NHS direct, I hope the NHS 111 service will be able to accommodate staff in a new organisation.
    Please read the leaked Deloittes report into the 111 Procurement , especially the behaviour of the management of NHSDirect in the organisations bid to run 111 Services out for procurement earlier this year.
    I share your frustrations about political interference, I remember them being expressed by hospitals and GP's at NHS Direct launch.
    Please do not view this as "getting at Nurses" it is not.
    It is a plea for us to be alert to the need to regulate our own spheres of Independant practice, and be moderate and objective in our feedback to other professions.
    The issue for your profession now is welcome to the criticism that GP's received when NHSD launched with the publicity Nurses replaced GP's as provider of advice, as Nurses are replaced with call handlers.
    The issue for my medical colleagues is be moderate in their actions in CCG commissioning roles, life is indeed good when you are"the next new thing" in the NHS,.
    However when political whims short attention span tires of the novelty and moves on it is a long time in a cold corner for most people's lifetime career, and your warmth may have to come from those you have recently stood on in a desire to be at the top.

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