More than 1,400 NHS Direct staff have been warned they could be at risk of redundancy as the organisation shrinks by around a third, Nursing Times has learnt.
Nurses and call handlers that do stay on to deliver the new non-emergency NHS 111 telephone number, which will replace NHS Direct’s 0845 number next year, are being asked to take a pay cut.
NHS Direct won contracts to deliver NHS 111 in a third of the country and will need just 850 full time equivalent staff to provide the service. It currently employs around 1,900 staff or 1,525 full time equivalents.
Back office staff are expected to be hit especially hard, while a 40% reduction in the proportion of calls handled by clinicians in NHS 111 compared to NHS Direct means significantly fewer nurses will be needed.
NHS Direct estimates up to 300 more full time equivalent jobs could be saved to provide national complex health and dental information services and online services.
However, the NHS Commissioning Board has only this week confirmed it will be commissioning these services and exact details have not been worked out.
Chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing Peter Carter said: “It is good news that some specialist services will be retained and additional sites will remain open, but it is worrying how long it took to recognise our concerns about the gaps which are going to be left by the move away from NHS Direct.
The new slimmed down NHS Direct will operate out of 12 sites compared to 30 at the moment. A 90 day consultation with staff began on Monday.
Unison national officer for NHS Direct Michael Walker described the roll out of NHS 111 as an “unmitigated disaster”.
He added: “We are within months of the winding up of NHS Direct and still the government has no real idea about the eventual impact on jobs or patient care.”
Senior nurse advisers, currently on a band six Agenda for Change salary, will be asked to accept a band five if they want to transfer into a similar role with NHS 111. Health advisers will be downbanded from a band three to a band two if they choose to stay on.
Long serving staff will get pay protection for up to three years but employees who have worked there for less than two years will get just six months protection.
NHS Direct chief executive Nick Chapman said: “NHS Direct is committed to avoiding redundancies wherever possible by redeploying staff into suitable alternative employment providing the new NHS 111 service with NHS Direct or one of the other providers of the service, or into roles in the wider NHS.”