Officials claim the new NHS non-emergency 111 telephone service in England is in a “fragile” state across many parts of the country.
An external review of the service is due to be launched after “serious concerns” were raised about its performance over the Easter weekend.
NHS England, formerly the NHS Commissioning Board, is set to agree to a review of the lessons learned from the implementation of the phone line at an upcoming board meeting, with GP leaders calling for greater transparency about how the service is operating.
Board papers say NHS 111 has vastly improved since issues seen during the Easter period, but worries remain following recent reports of calls going unanswered and poor advice being given.
“We are still receiving reports that patients are facing unacceptably long waits to get through to an NHS 111 operator and suffering from further delays when waiting for calls back with medical advice should they manage to have their call answered,” said Laurence Buckman, GPs committee chair at the British Medical Association.
“The quality of some of the information being given out appears, from anecdotal sources, to be questionable in some instances.”
He added that the failure by NHS England to clearly identify which areas are facing problems has further compounded the uncertainty that has beset NHS 111.
The paper, entitled Assuring NHS 111 Operational Delivery, reveals that most providers are meeting their key performance indicators of less than 5% of abandoned calls.
However, the target of calls answered in less than 60 seconds is still a struggle for a number of providers.
“The service is still fragile in a number of areas and many have needed (support),” the paper says.
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