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NHS 111 'fundamentally flawed', says Labour

The government has been accused of “vandalism” by destroying NHS Direct, which formally closed on 31 March.

The helpline was replaced by the NHS 111 service, but Labour claimed the new system was “fundamentally flawed” with a lack of medical knowledge.

NHS Direct originally had a contract to run 11 of the 46 NHS 111 services in England but in July last year announced it was planning to pull out due to severe financial problems.

It was announced in October last year that NHS Direct was to close and it was quietly shut down at the end of last month. A message on the organisation’s website said: “NHS Direct was decommissioned as of 31st March 2014.”

“Computers and call-centre staff have replaced nurses”

Jamie Reed

Shadow health minister Jamie Reed said: “The destruction of NHS Direct − Labour’s trusted, national service − is one of the worst acts of vandalism by this government. It was broken up into 46 cut-price contracts − NHS Direct was left in deficit and forced to close.

Labour

Jamie Reed

“David Cameron’s NHS 111 service is fundamentally flawed. Computers and call-centre staff have replaced nurses and it has led to unsustainable pressure on A&E departments. Ministers must re-instate a national, nurse-led service providing reliable advice in all parts of the country.”

But a Conservative source responded by accusing Mr Reed of “hysteria” and claimed that NHS 111 was a Labour idea.

The source said: “‘Labour hysteria seems ill-judged given that replacing NHS Direct with NHS 111 was their idea and featured in all three party manifestos in 2010.

“What matters to patients is the security now offered by an improved and popular 111 service.”

“We were all proud to have worked for NHS Direct and the unique service we delivered to the public”

Sandra Maxwell

Unison told Nursing Times that the last 450 NHS Direct staff, inlcuding 250 nurses, were made redundant on 31 March along with the union’s nurse convenor Sandra Maxwell.

Ms Maxwell said: “We were all proud to have worked for NHS Direct and the unique service we delivered to the public.

“It is a credit to all staff that despite the reckless destruction of the service, staff remained professional, fully committed and morale remained high to the the bitter end,” she said.

Michael Walker, Unison national officer for NHS Direct, added: “NHS Direct when at its best was unassailable, its role during the pandemic flu epidemic was incalculable, every bank holiday NHS Direct took the strain when other services simply could not cope.”

Readers' comments (4)

  • tinkerbell

    I used NHS direct on 3 occasions over a period of years and on each occasion they were fantastic. Now destroyed! Keep it up tories you are really warming me to you.

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  • I have just been to see a patient on the Stroke Unit today. She phoned 111 with limb weakness, and was told that is was a trapped nerve. She went to bed an woke up at 4am and fell of of bed. She now has a full blown stroke with a fractured ankle and fibula - great!

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  • I attended a Nursing Conference yesterday. One of the speakers asked what can Nurses do to make sure the NHS of tomorrow is a safe and effective service for patients.

    Having perused the message boards in this publication and the comments left regarding many of the articles I think one of the main things all Health Professionals (Nurses, Doctors, Paramedics, Midwives etc) can do is stop bad mouthing each others services and critcising each other without, in many cases, an in depth knowledge of what has and is going on.

    Have also heard many instances of staff 'slagging off' another service to patients and advising them not to use that service any more.

    At this rate, no government will need to dismantle the NHS as we know it; we are doing a pretty good job of that ourselves by our self criticism and lack of mutual support.

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  • Anonymous | 4-Jun-2014 1:13 pm

    totally agree and that could also extend to the many staff at all levels, including Mr Marsh, who are so fed up they just leave and find better opportunities abroad. everybody needs mutual support rather than others standing in judgement of them instead of reflecting on how they can improve themselves and in order for each and every one to be able to give their entire focus to the best care of their patients. to do otherwise, can have highly dangerous consequences with detrimental effects both to patients and to their colleagues.

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