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New non-emergency NHS line 'in crisis', claims Labour

The government’s new NHS 111 advice line service is in crisis, Labour claimed, as it branded the handling of its phased introduction a “trademark government shambles”.

Shadow minister for public health Diane Abbott told MPs a leaked performance report on the fledgling helpline reportedly revealed staff shortages, delays, abandoned calls and long waits for calls to be returned.

Health minister Dr Daniel Poulter argued it was important “not to rush the roll-out of any service” and the existing NHS Direct service had been kept in place in areas where the 111 line had not yet been adopted.

The body representing doctors in Britain last month called for a delay in the launch of the new non-emergency helpline, saying it was putting patient safety at risk.

The British Medical Association (BMA) wrote to Sir David Nicholson, chief executive of the NHS, to highlight its concerns about the advice line, which was due to go live in England at the start of April.

Speaking during Commons health questions, Ms Abbott said: “Does the minister agree with me that the most important form of early intervention is for the public to get prompt advice on their symptoms?

“So does he share my concern that a leaked report on the national performance of the 111 line shows the service is in crisis, with staff shortages, delays, abandoned calls, 11-hour waits for call-backs, staff being wrongly diverted to attend cats with diarrhoea and ambulance crews going without breaks for 12 hours or more?

“Isn’t this a trademark government shambles?”

Dr Poulter replied: “She will be aware that it is important not to rush the roll-out of any service and that is why we kept in place the NHS Direct service in areas where we have been slower to roll out the 111 service.

“But there is a lot of good work that is going on in early prevention, and that focus on giving local authorities the budget and the powers to make a difference to local communities is something the party opposite should get behind and support and do much more to do that, because it’s this side and this government that’s making a difference in the early years and I hope that they can support us on that.”

 

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Readers' comments (4)

  • I work in A&E and we're so concerned about the quality of advice given to patients via 111 that we've started collecting a dossier to take to 111 managers.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • reading the reports in the press, there seems to be a lot of confusion between using this line for non-emergency advice and requiring and the delivery of emergency services.
    presumably in any emergency the public can and should still dial 999.
    unfortunately there are also reports of calls for ambulance services not being dealt with appropriately and urgently.

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  • Kadiyali Srivatsa

    In 1996, I saw this was coming when preprinted assessment http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1055378/ was developed and tested in UCH. If healthcare can be offered by doctors using algorithms, we really do not need to medical schools and train doctors under supervision for almost am decade.

    I have supervised, trained doctors all about clinical acumen "The most important but less understood topic in medicine". You can find thousands of doctors who academics claiming to have obtained Phd or higher degrees but miserably fail as clinicians. These are the doctors advising and helping politicians to save the NHS but failing because they do not see what their mind can't think.

    I have created a tool that can be used by patients, receptionists, nurses and doctors. This will not only help patients but also reduce anxiety, tension, delay, complications and demand - saving cost and the NHS.

    Let us all not forget we are offering a service and not selling products. Every patient we see has hidden agenda, the ones who actually need help is the one who avoid consultation. These are the ones we need to encourage and make sure the time wasters know they are paying for phone calls, travel and crumbling NHS.

    Please check out the tool (I have used this method to help triage patients in the OOH) and tell me I am wrong, if not use this and make sure no one gets hurt - this is FREE www.appcat.com/maya

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  • I am aware that because of the concern about 111, organisations are incurring double running costs of primary care out of hours services as CCG's cannot rely on the 111 service.

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