About 100 full-time nursing posts are being axed by NHS Direct due to the switch to a new non-emergency telephone number – despite previous commitments from the government that nurses’ jobs were safe.
The 100 posts represent 90% of the total frontline posts NHS Direct is being forced to cut in the move to the new NHS 111 service. Unions estimate the actual numbers of nurses affected will be much higher as a large proportion of the NHS Direct workforce works part-time.
NHS 111 has already gone live in many parts of the country. It is due to fully replace the NHS Direct service across England from 21 March. A range of providers have won contracts to run the new service including ambulance trusts, the private sector out-of-hours firm Harmoni and NHS Direct itself.
NHS Direct will run NHS 111 in a third of areas and will need 185 fewer full-time equivalent nurses than it employs at present. Its nurses will also have the opportunity to transfer into 85 FTE posts created at other NHS 111 providers.
In June last year NHS Direct chief executive Nick Chapman told Nursing Times the Department of Health did not expect any nurses to be made redundant as a result of the introduction of NHS 111.
Michael Walker, Unison national officer for NHS Direct, said: “The DH said no nurses would lose their jobs, why hasn’t that commitment been honoured?”
A spokesman for the DH said officials were “working closely with NHS Direct and other NHS 111 providers” to keep the number of redundancies to a “minimum”.
NHS Direct said in a statement that some nurses faced redundancy because they lived too far away from the call centres that would be providing NHS 111, or did not want to transfer to non-NHS providers that could not guarantee their existing terms and conditions.