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Worried about how NHS Direct handles calls

I agree with Dr Graeme Kelvin that NHS Direct refers too many routine cases of worried well for urgent GP assessment (News, October 20).

I do not think, though, that NHS Direct is too safe, as in my experience several patients with potentially life-threatening conditions have been given inappropriate advice and their treatment has been delayed unnecessarily.

The algorithms are neither sensitive nor specific and are used by call handlers and nurse advisers who have neither the training, experience or skill to understand when the algorithm is inappropriate for the presenting problem.

Patients rapidly become skilled in manipulating the NHS Direct service to ensure they get the response they want and not necessarily that which is appropriate.

Dr G Hayes


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HSBC bank announced last week that it is transferring the work of several thousand of their Call Centre staff to Asia, where the cost is one-tenth that of the UK.

Would it not be a good idea for NHS Direct to do the same? There would be a huge cost saving and, more importantly, it would allow the highly qualified nurses to return to the clinical workforce where they are desperately needed.

Dr Christopher Jones

Poole, Dorset

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