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Managers forced into ‘workarounds’ to keep 111 on track

Exclusive: Managers have been forced into costly ‘workarounds’ in order to avert delays of up to 18 months in their NHS 111 rollouts and avoid legal challenges from out-of-hours providers over the project.

In evidence that the NHS 111 project is being rushed through to meet the Department of Health’s April 2013 deadline, managers are considering buying off-the-shelf software to ensure their roll-out continues after the DH changed its specification in December to say pilots had to use products that are compliant with the NHS spine.

Board papers from the NHS Oxfordshire cluster state that the DH’s demands for spine compliance had left ‘a further chance of slippage’ in the project as Connecting for Health accreditation is ‘a 12 to 18 month process’.

Speaking to Pulse, NHS Oxfordshire said: ‘The PCT and partner organisations are considering a number of workarounds, including off the shelf products or use of the Connecting for Health Portal.’

‘A decision has yet to be made as to the preferred solution.’

The DH admitted the problem applied to ‘sites that are using software that is not compliant’ but did not say how many NHS 111 pilot sites were affected.

Meanwhile, NHS Buckinghamshire said it was putting its 111 project to a full procurement process as there was a risk that local out-of-hours ‘providers legally challenge the process if they perceive a loss of income/business from the implementation of 111′.

An NHS Buckinghamshire spokesperson said: ‘NHS Buckinghamshire is going to procurement for 111 to negate the risk of legal challenge.’

The Department of Health has defied calls from the GPC to halt the rollout of its NHS 111 project, despite Pulse revealing nine serious untoward incidents in pilots across the country.

A DH spokesperson said ministers were still working to an April 2013 deadline: ‘We will ensure that although planning will go ahead for roll-out from April 2013, this will be achieved with CCGs in a leadership role.’

Dr Peter Holden, GPC negotiator and a GP in Matlock, Derbyshire, said the GPC was in the process of formalising its concerns with the DH, but insisted a delay was needed.

He said: ‘The Secretary of State wants it rolled out by April 2013. The bottom line is, this needs to slow up. It is trying to run before it can stand, let alone walk.’