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'Underused' NHS Direct to shed staff

NHS Direct is planning to lay off hundreds of staff to help cut its budget deficit.

The nurse-led helpline would face massive debt if it did not shed some of its 4,000 workers, staff representatives were told at a meeting this week.

The Department of Health has also suggested the service, one of the flagship policies in its 2000 NHS Plan, may be 'underused' by patients.

A spokesman said: 'We have yet to agree the proposed changes from NHS Direct but it has reassured us these are about making sure its service meets the changing needs of patients.

'It is right for NHS Direct to seek value for money and not fund services that are being underused by patients.'

Public sector union Unison said entire call centres would close and warned the cuts would have a knock-on effect on demand for GP services.

But GPs said they would not mourn any cuts.

Dr Nick Summerton, a GP in Goole, east Yorkshire, said NHS Direct had increased demand at his surgery and caused unnessary anxiety among patients.

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