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Independents' Day

NHS Direct ignores its own GP policy

A Which? report has condemned NHS Direct for failing to follow its own policy of asking callers for GPs' details.

GP details were requested in under half the 33 calls made to the helpline by Consumers Association researchers posing as patients. In the eight cases where details were taken, no record of the call was passed on to the patients' GPs.

The researchers warned of the 'dangerous implications' of patients missing out on follow-up GP care as many of the helpline's nurses missed signs pointing to unstable angina. 'Poor advice and long waits' were putting patients using NHS Direct at risk, the report concluded.

NHS Direct's five-minute target for patients to speak to an adviser was met in 12 calls. In seven cases, callers waited more than 30 minutes for a call-back from a nurse and in three they were never called.

The Department of Health dismissed the report, published last week, as 'outrageous', claiming the methodology was flawed.

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