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GPs raise ‘serious concerns’ over NHS 111 roll-out

LMCs have raised ‘serious concerns’ over the rollout of the Government’s 111 out-of-hours urgent care line, saying the plans compromise patient safety and pile additional work on GPs.

The LMCs Conference in Liverpool accused the Government of ‘ignoring the lessons’ from 111 pilot schemes and voted through motions warning the plans will increase costs and endanger existing GP out-of-hours services ‘of proven high quality’.

The motions warned that having preliminary triage of calls by non-clinicians working from algorithms would result in ‘inappropriate triage decisions’ and increase attendances at GP surgeries and A&E.

The BMA wrote to health secretary Andrew Lansley earlier this year urging him to halt plans for the service to go live throughout England next year.

Dr Stewart Kay, chair of Southwark LMC, who proposed the motion, said: ‘[Quality control concerns] are self evident from the Government’s rush towards implementation. Work has already been generated by inappropriate referrals. The costs will come from primary care.’

Dr Mary McCarthy, chair of Shropshire LMC, also backed the motion. She said: ‘It was pushed in despite our worries and before the Sheffield pilot had been evaluated. NHS 111 should be delayed until these problems are solved.’

Dr Peter Holden, GPC negotiator, urged LMCs to back the motion. He said: ‘I spoke to a private provider bidder and the majority of bidders for 111 see it as a money making operation.’

‘If it stays in not-for-profit hands you’ll get experienced people who’ll keep patients who don’t need to go to hospital or to the GP away.’

‘111 as currently constructed is an expensive waste of resources the NHS can’t afford. Trust me, I’m a doctor.’

But Dr John Grenville, secretary of Derbyshire LMC, opposed the motion, saying 111 pilots in his area had worked well: ‘The pilot in Derbyshire works. It provides a reasonable 111 service and the LMC is involved.’

In response, Dr Kay added: ‘I’m happy if Derbyshire are happy but the rest of us are going to be screwed.’

Click here for more from the LMCs Conference