Exclusive GP leaders have claimed they are unable to talk publically about the rollout of NHS 111 in one area of the country for ‘legal reasons’, leading to concerns over the transparency of the urgent care hotline.
LMC representatives in Cambridgeshire say they have been prevented from speaking about the rollout in their area, while the GPC has also taken legal advice and its members have been advised not to make any public comment on the Cambridgeshire service.
The launch of the service in Cambridgeshire has been delayed beyond 1 April, as it has in many other parts of the country.
Last week Pulse revealed that the launch of the 111 number had been delayed in 17 out of 47 regions across England, representing 53% of the country’s population. It follows reports of chaotic ‘soft launches’ in a number of areas last week including Manchester, Birmingham and south London, with reports of long waiting times and out-of-hours GPs having to take back control of call-handling.
The NHS 111 contract in Cambridgeshire is held by a local doctor-led out-of-hours organisation called Urgent Care Cambridgeshire.
But Pulse understands neither the local LMC or the current provider are able to speak about the rollout due to legal reasons.
The matter emerged after the GPC asked LMC representatives from across the country to report on the NHS 111 rollout in their area at last month’s GPC meeting. Cambridgeshire LMC told the GPC it was unable to deliver its report for legal reasons.
Cambridgeshire LMC chief executive Dr Guy Watkins told Pulse he was unable to speak about the NHS 111 service or specify why he was unable to speak.
‘For legal reasons we cannot comment,’ he said.
Urgent Care Cambridgeshire, which is the local NHS 111 provider, told Pulse it was also unable to comment on the NHS 111 service for legal reasons.
A spokesperson said: ‘There hasn’t been a soft launch done. The PCT/CCG are still working on exactly when they want the service to go live. We can talk about out of hours but not about 111.’
She said Urgent Care Cambridgeshire had not taken out any injunction ‘to stop people talking about the service’, or about potential ‘failures’ of the service.
NHS Cambridgeshire denied it had put in place any gagging order that would prevent LMCs or GPC from discussing NHS 111.
A spokesperson said: ‘We can categorically confirm that there is no gagging order on the LMC or GPC from the PCT or CCG.’
GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden said he was ‘not allowed’ to talk about NHS 111 in Cambridgeshire, but did say that any attempt to gag GPs would be ‘inappropriate’ for a matter of public interest.
He told Pulse: ‘I can’t talk about it, the law would hammer me.’