The BMA has written to NHS England calling for it to delay further launches to the rollout of NHS 111, following reports from around the country that the ‘soft launch’ of the service has gone badly.
GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman laid out fears that many areas are not ready for the full launch of the urgent care service and it is putting patient safety at risk in a letter to the NHS Commissioning Board, now known as NHS England.
LMC leaders in areas using the NHS 111 service said that patients have been waiting on the phone for 90 minutes and local out-of-hours providers have had to take control of the system in Manchester.
Pulse recently reported that more than half the country will not be ready for full launch on 1 April.
Dr Buckman wrote: ‘We have repeatedly asked for the implementation of NHS 111 services not to be rushed and stressed that a smooth transition is essential for patient safety. As yet, many areas seem not to be ready for that transition and, from some of the examples reported, I am worried that patients may be put at risk.
He said there were real concerns about the Easter weekend.
Dr Buckman added: ‘I would therefore urge you to delay any further launches or development of NHS 111, to give the services sufficient time to ensure that they are completely ready before taking on this important responsibility. I would be happy to discuss this further with you.’
RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada, said she was becoming ‘increasingly concerned’ by reports of serious issues with the delivery of NHS 111.
She said: ‘We need urgent reassurance that patients and GPs will be able to rely on a fully functioning service from Monday, wherever they live and work.
‘Many GPs in affected areas are stepping into the breach to protect vulnerable and worried patients and the RCGP will continue to monitor the situation.’