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NHS Direct to close

NHS Direct is to be completely wound up by the end of the financial year and its remaining services dispersed to other providers, it has been announced.

More than 700 staff, including 156 nurses, will be put at risk of redundancy when a formal consultation period starts on Monday. Redundancy costs could potentially run to £15m.

The closure of the telephone and online health advice provider after 15 years marks the end of a process that began when former health secretary Andrew Lansley announced NHS Direct’s 0845 number would be replaced by NHS 111 in 2010.

NHS Direct won 11 NHS 111 contracts covering a third of the country but following a disastrous launch in April announced it was pulling out because the contracts were not financially sustainable.

The 469 staff involved in providing NHS 111, including 116 nurses, are expected to transfer to the ambulance trusts lined up to take on the 111 contracts on a temporary basis. At least 100 nurses have already been made redundant by NHS Direct over the past year as part of the move to NHS 111 which uses around half as many nurses as NHS Direct.

Chief executive Nick Chapman said they had “no option” but to wind up the organisation after realising they would be unable to balance the books.

“As a result we are now progressing with the NHs Trust Development Authority to the formal process of closing the trust,” he said.

“It’s sad that NHS Direct is coming to an end but the staff and capabilities are being dispersed into the NHS and will I am sure continue to be used for the benefits of patients.”

He said nurses facing redudancy would be offered training to help them refresh their practical skills.

NHS England is currently developing a new service specification for NHS 111 which is due by next spring.

NHS England director of operations Dame Barbara Hakin confirmed one of the things being considered was whether there needed to be more clinicians on the service.

Nursing Times understands the online services provided by NHS Direct, such as the health and symptom checkers, are likely to transfer to the Health and Social Care Information Centre along with the small team responsible for stepping up the National Flu Pandemic Service.

However, the complex health information and medicines enquiry service and the dental nurse assessment service are expected to wound up after NHS England indicated its intention not to recommission them.  

The services, worth more than 12.5m a year, were a feature of NHS Direct’s 0845 service and were commissioned for the first year of NHS 111 during which they handled around 16,000 calls a month transferred from NHS 111.

Mr Chapman said it would not make a difference to the organisation’s future viability even if they were recommissioned.

Readers' comments (12)

  • Sounds like a very generous redundancy package if all staff are to average 21,428...

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  • I feel for those affected, I know a number of people who ended up working there do due to injuries sustained whilst working on the wards etc. I hope everyone gets their full redundancy entitlement and goes on to find work elsewhere.

    I never really liked NHS direct (or 111 or anything like that), and always though those staff would've been better used actually providing a hands-on role at an OOH's Centre or something like that, but it feel for them individually.

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  • Why are recruitment agencies Hays and Connaught advertising jobs for NHS111 ? Surely the NHS Direct nurses could be redeployed into the 111 service without the need for redundancies.

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  • sounds a total mess with no sense of any organisation or coordination between the services and gives the idea that the authorities don't even very much care.

    it would be cheaper to not have any service at all than a poorly run one which is unable to provide adequate advice and support to patients, not even to mention any sense of job security it offers its staff.

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  • NHS Direct and NHS 111? What is 'National' here? It is time we called a spade a spade and were honest about the fragmentation of the health service , which is no longer national.

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  • Anonymous | 24-Oct-2013 10:17 pm

    and a commentator in the Telegraph suggested it should no longer be called a service. I am not sure whether s/he was implying it should be referred to as a business or something else.

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  • The Gold Standard of Health Care turned over to accountants and failed businessmen and destroyed. What a wonderful testimony to incompetent self serving British politicians of all parties.

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  • quote from BBC web page:-

    NHS Direct used to be paid more than £20 per call when it ran the old 0845 number. The payment was between £7 and £9 per call for the new 111 service - and call volumes were lower than expected.

    Projections reported earlier this year showed NHS Direct had lost £2.8m from April to June and was heading for a deficit of £26m if it continued until March.

    - what a terrible waste of money, resources and highly qualified staff....

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  • Anonymous | 25-Oct-2013 9:30 am

    quite!

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  • NHS Direct worked and it worked very well. Of course there were problems in the early days but then again what new service is problem free right from the start. MONITOR has just published a report which advocates a telephone line run by nurses to advise patients to reduce need to attend GP or A&E etc! Incredible that they dont know the country already had this service and it was disgracecully sacrificed to the political schemes of the day. Also, shame on NHS and health care professionals who carelessly say that the money would have been better spent elsewhere and that it was always a wast of resources. Unless you have the evidence to support this then please keep quiet. The word shafted springs to mind; front line staff shafted and sacrificed from both inside the organisation and from without. Scratching of backs and the making of money and personal reputations is all that matters these days.

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  • Anonymous | 28-Oct-2013 2:14 pm

    it was not carelessly said and, please, what gives you the right to silence the opinions of others? and who says, apart from yourself that personal opinion has to be backed up with evidence?

    the NHS desperately needs resources for effective care on the front line looking after patients and not spent on qualified nurses sitting in call centres or behind desks and computers. this is repeated over and over in these threads and right across the media.

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  • nhs choices is a joke. they are not up to date re nhs direct. they do not provide a feedback form where you can state you were unable to find the information you are looking for. I would like a simple lab test with the results before consulting a doctor as instead of doing this in the first place I have been fobbed off with medication I may not need but there is no information about this whatsoever yet there is another article here saying patients should take more responsibility for their own health!
    what a muddle and farce the NHS is!

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