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GP out-of-hours could be integrated with NHS 111 across England, pending review

NHS England has halted all procurement of new NHS 111 providers while it reviews whether they should all be linked up with GP out-of-hours services.

NHS England said the review would also look at reducing the number of contracts, as CCGs begin to work together to plan urgent and emergency care services more strategically.

It added that the redesign would be an opportunity for NHS 111 and GP services to work and plan services together rather than separately.

For example, the review will look at at having clinicians directly handling patient calls as well as allowing NHS 111 call handlers to make GP appointments.

NHS England head of urgent and emergency care delivery Nick Hall said: ‘These planned changes to integrate NHS 111 and out-of-hours services will offer patients better access to urgent care 24/7.

‘It builds on what commissioners have been asking for and will not disrupt the running of the NHS 111 services.’

GPC urgent care lead Dr Charlotte Jones welcomed the review after years of the BMA questioning whether NHS 111 call handlers have sufficient training and are making appropriate referrals to GPs and A&E departments.

She said: ‘We are pleased that NHS England has listened to the BMA and will be reviewing its procurement process, particularly rethinking the separation of the call-handling system from GP out-of-hours services.

‘The BMA was raising concerns about NHS 111 before its disastrous launch in 2013 and has continued to have doubts about how the service is being run in some parts of the country.’

The news comes after this year’s LMCs conference called for the NHS 111 service to be scrapped in its entirety and Pulse revealed that GPs estimate that around three-quarters of NHS 111 referrals are clinically inappropriate.