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Ambulance trusts to provide interim NHS 111 services

Ambulance trusts will cover NHS 111 in the biggest regions affected by NHS Direct’s withdrawal from the troubled helpline.

North West Ambulance Service and West Midlands Ambulance Service will provide call handling in their respective regions until the procurement process in finished, which is likely to be it mid to late 2014.

This follows NHS Direct’s announcement that it will withdraw from providing NHS 111 services in all 11 regions it holds contracts for as part of a ‘managed transfer’ of the service.

Dr Jonathan Leach, clinical lead for 111 in West Midlands, told Pulse that NHS Direct’s statement ‘did not come as a surprise’ and commissioners have been planning interim arrangements for a while.

He added: ‘We have been working with a range of organisations who will be able to step into the 111 arrangements. We are in discussion with WMAS but those discussions are not yet finalised.’

The helpline in many areas in the West Midlands are currently being covered by out-of-hours groups, and they will continue to provide call handling in those areas, Dr Leach added.

In the North West, the local ambulance service is currently providing cover.

Ian Moses, head of service development at the service, said: ‘NWAS is assisting in the delivery of NHS 111 in the North West.  The Trust was part of the previous NHS 111 Pilot in the North West, and remobilised the 111 service to support patient care and improve patient access following the problems encountered in the regional roll out at the end of March 2013.’

Dr Amanda Doyle, chief clinical officer at Blackpool CCG, told Pulse: ‘We’ve got an ongoing conversation, particularly with the West Midlands, but working closely with other areas. There are two stages – to make sure we are able to deliver an interim service so patients are getting a safe service. The next stage is to refine the clinical model and re-procure the service as soon as possible.’

She added: ‘We’re hoping that within 12 months we will have reprocured the service. We’ll be in a position to have a detailed service specification available pretty quickly.’