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Minister admits two NHS 111 areas are ‘worrying’

The Government has admitted it is still ‘worried’ about the NHS 111 service in some areas of the country, but insisted that the new non-urgent care line was working well in 90% of areas.

Health minister Earl Howe told delegates at the NICE annual conference in Birmingham that he is worried about service in the south west and the south east coast.

The news comes after Pulse revealed that at least 22 serious incidents have been recorded since the soft launch of the new number.

Earl Howe said: ‘There is no use denying that the 111 service got off to a very disappointing start.

‘We are worried about services in the south west and the south east coast but the rest of the country - we have got 90% of the country covered by 111 - is experiencing a good, if not excellent, service all the time. So we need to get this in proportion.’

‘We are not happy with those two particular areas and NHS England are gripping it. We have been very candid about where NHS 111 fell down we did not want to duck that.’

He added that the Government is still considering whether the duty of candour it plans to introduce in the wake of the Francis Inquiry in the failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation NHS Trust would require doctors and NHS organisations to be indiviually responsible for being honest about mistakes.

Earl Howe said he was ‘nervous’ about introducing legislation which would allow individuals to be prosecuted. He said: ‘We are trying to button down at the moment where the criminal offence should fall - whether it should fall at an organisational level or on to an individual level.

‘I think I am nervous about it falling on to an individual level, if I speak candidly, because it might produce a very opposite result from the one we want which is maximum openness and candour. If people were living in a climate that they perceived as a climate of fear and blame then we might not achieve what we want.

We are very clear that Francis’s core recommendation has to be taken forward  - I think there is a criminal offence at the core of that and the Care Bill will no doubt focus on that in committee.’