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Independents' Day

Rise in A&E attendances caused by NHS 111, emergency medicine leader claims

NHS 111 was responsible for almost the full increase in A&E attendances in the last year, the president of the College of Emergency Medicine has told MPs

Speaking at a House of Commons health committee hearing on A&E pressures this morning, Dr Clifford Mann said patients should not be blamed for attending A&E inappropriately when it was NHS 111 advising them to go there, or which had sent them an ambulance.

The meeting was held in response to reports that hospitals across the country have experienced severe A&E chaos in recent weeks, despite the Government injecting £700 million worth of winter funding to avoid the situation via better forward planning.

Dr Mann quoted figures showing there had been 450,000 extra A&E attendances in the past year, which could almost all be put down to NHS 111.

He said: ‘This may be an inappopriate point to point out but the reason that these people are attending our emergency departments is because we have told them to.

‘The NHS 111 figures are very interesting. Of the 450,000 extra attendances in the last year, 220,000 were advised by NHS 111 to come to the emergency department and for another 222,000, an ambulance was dispatched to them by NHS 111.

‘If you put those figures together you have more than 95% of the rise in type 1 attendances. So I don’t think we should blame people for going to the emergency department when we told them to go there. It’s absurd.’

The helpline was rolled out in April 2013, but has suffered a series of problems, including its main provider NHS Direct relinquishing its contracts after just over 12 months.

Commenting on the exchange, BMA chair Dr Mark Porter said: ‘We can only get to grips with pressure on A&Es if every part of the system - from our GP surgeries, to hospitals, to community care - is fully supported and working well, and this includes urgently addressing the shortage of A&E staff and GPs. We also need to ensure NHS 111 is improved to make it a doctor-and nurse-led service. This will help prevent patients being unnecessarily directed to A&E.’

He added that it is ‘simply not sustainable’ that investment in general practice ‘is declining while demand is on the rise and more care is moved into the community’.

Pulse reported that an LMC and an ambulance trust in the south west of England reported that NHS 111 telephone systems malfunctioned over the Christmas and New Year period.


Readers' comments (14)

  • Aha, so will Jeremy Hint now apologise for blaming GPs?

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  • Tory policy was to ditch NHS direct and use 111 - ( would Care UK's " donation" of 25k to support Andrew Lansley's office have anything to do with this ?

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  • Vinci Ho

    Write these figures (NHS111's wonderful referrals ) on pieces of paper and give them to DC and JH to swallow them in front of the public as an apology !

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  • No, he won't because Jeremy Hunt is a "scoundrel" His attacks on General Practice have "disgraced himself".
    I am sorry PULSE magazine if you have any business or commercial links to The Tories but Hunt is a ****.

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  • Vinci Ho

    Yes. Similar to my plea to Sarah Wollaston to quit her party.

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  • Why has the daily mail not published this accurate summary of events!!

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  • GPs wanted NHS Direct to be wound up - and you got 111 in exchange! The original review of the 111 software (NHS Pathways) said that it sent MORE people to A/E than NHSD, and yet it was still chosen to supercede NHSD.

    they are talking abut employing nurses on the phone - NHSD had that service 13yrs ago.

    Be careful what you wish for.

    Nick Robinson (Ex NHSD)

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  • We told you so....
    I have been working as OOH GP for last 8 years[ out of choice btw] I predicted this would happen from day one, obviously I was ignored.
    Let me give you one example : 90+ old lady on a syringe driver and terminally ill had an ambulance and police officers dispatched to her by 111 when she died first to resuscitate her and secondly to investigate the death!!!

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  • The failure of NHS 111 should be seen as the 'canary in the coal mine' for attempts to replace skilled & trained healthcare professionals with minimum wage McJobs.

    Hopefully the same lessons will be learned as the Shape of Training Review plods on...

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  • Dear All
    So the head honcho for A/E, Emergency medicine running unscheduled care has officially and publically described NHS 111 as the "Absurd NHS 111". Can all GPs please now formally describe it with its new full title. The Absurd NHS 111 service.
    Paul C

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