The current design of NHS 111 has been thrown into doubt after NHS England announced it is to urgently review the model used to roll it out.
In advance papers for its board meeting on Friday, NHS England also announced that it has put back the roll out of NHS 111 to the end of summer from its original target of the end of June.
The papers also said that NHS England will assess the ability of some providers to maintain delivery of NHS 111 services.
A document on the delivery of 111 said: ‘The phase will include an urgent review of the sustainability of the current model of service into 2014. The ability of some providers to maintain delivery of these services will need to be thoroughly assessed and an appraisal of the likely market of providers undertaken.’
According to the paper, NHS England expects a ‘safe roll out of 111 across England by the end of the summer’.
As part of the review, it will consider: ‘Was the original design of the service optimal to provide the best service? This will include reviewing the scope and design of the service.’
The NHS 111 service has been beset with problems since the soft launch in most areas in mid-March and over the Easter weekend. Pulse has reported that as many as 40% of calls were going unanswered in some areas while providers have had to hire more call handlers to deal with demands.
However, the NHS England document said matters have improved in the areas where the NHS 111 service has been rolled out. It said: At the time of writing, there was a vastly improved picture of NHS 111 delivery across the country when compared to late March, and the Easter bank holiday, periods.
‘Most providers are now hitting their key performance indicators (KPI) for calls abandoned of under 5%, although the target of calls answered in under 60 seconds is still a struggle for a number of providers. However, the service is still fragile in a number of areas and many have needed contingency.’