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NHS 111 failures have 'let patients down', NHS England admits


Patients have been “let down” by the “unacceptable” failure of some NHS 111 services, NHS England directors have admitted.

Interim deputy chief executive Dame Barbara Hakin today also questioned whether the services should have been commissioned nationally, rather than by local organisations.

About half of the country missed last month’s deadline to go live with the new non-emergency phone number, while in many areas where the service did launch, patients struggled to get through.

In many areas the launch of the service, which uses less than half as many nurses than NHS Direct, has also been blamed for increases in inappropriate ambulance call outs and attendances at emergency departments.

At Friday’s NHS England board meeting its chief executive Sir David Nicholson said: “We’ve had serious difficulties in relation to people being able to get through… and a large number of people in some places who have had to give up and try again later.

“That’s clearly unacceptable and we’ve let some of our patients down.

“We need to think really carefully about the lessons we can learn and also more importantly about getting the service up and running.”

Contingency services are continuing to operate, he said, and are improving, although NHS England is continuing to monitor “one or two areas where we’ve still got issues we need to deal with”.

“We also need to reflect in time around what we should do around some of the failures we’ve had, particularly around the providers of service who have simply not delivered what was expected, and we need to think more long term about what is the kind of service we want for our patients.”

NHS England will need to have a “deep reflection” on what it could have done better, Sir David said.

The biggest implementation failures were in the North West and West Midlands, both areas where NHS Direct was awarded the contract.

This monring NHS Clinical Commissioners called for the NHS 111 roll out to be halted.

The body, which represents clinical commissioning groups, said that comments from NHS England “clearly demonstrate the concern regarding 111 within the NHS”.

“Local commissioners have raised concerns about the roll out of NHS 111 and that top down imposition has overridden local worries. Local commissioners are keen to ensure that patients have access to high quality, accessible urgent care, and it is clearly not acceptable that patients may be put at risk and their calls may not be answered.

“There is an urgent need for issues surrounding 111 to be resolved.

“NHS England must call a halt to the further roll-out of NHS 111 until each region has been rigorously tested and assurances can be given that the system is resilient and patients will receive appropriate advice.”



Readers' comments (18)

  • what the hell did they expect when they sacked expirenced nurses and replaced them with minimum wage call centre staff

    these people in charge could not run a bath between them!!!

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  • no. 1 priority appears to be quick fix cost saving at any price regardless of false economy in the longer term.
    there seems to be no acceptance of the fact that price tags cannot be put on human life.

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  • I wonder if we will hear Mr Nicholson running around saying "This is terrible, the NHS should do something about it"!

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  • where is mr francis?

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  • There are a lot of people saying "I told you so" without much satisfaction right about now. Will anyone be held accountable for this turning into the shambles everyone predicted? I'm not holding my breath...

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  • I have had to use the 111 service. I work in a community hospital setting and we use the out of hours GP service after 7pm at night and at weekends. Initially it took a long time with many questions ranging from is the person still breathing? personally I would not be dialling 111 at this time!! to has the person had a 4 hour or longer car jorney? could't quite work out the relevance of this question, having stated that I am a registered nurse calling from a community hospital about an inpatient and expalining what is wrong with the patient and what I would like to happen next eg a doctor to visit the hospital.... I wait with hope for an improvement in the 111 service!!!

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  • it is unbelievable in this day and age. new schemes, in theory, are introduced one would like to assume because they are improvements on the old ones with all of the advances in knowledge and technology.

    is this failure now a trend setter for all of the new services in the NHS and the best we can hope for? If this is the case we might as well all curl up our toes and give up.

    it seems to be that right across the board far too much time, effort and money, etc. has been invested in this obsession for high tech and IT that no consideration is given anymore to basic human needs and our interpersonal relationships. If you need or want service, accurate information and questions answered you very often cannot get access to the experts to obtain it. Instead you are left beating your head against a brick wall with which you are repeatedly confronted thus wasting all of your own precious physical, mental and material resources.

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  • The disaster is no longer waiting to happen.

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  • Anonymous | 15-Apr-2013 2:30 pm

    perhaps it would be helpful to have a dedicated line for hc professionals calling about their patients.

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  • The contingencies have obviously FAILED too if the patients were not managed appropriately within the target times. We saw with the Olympic security fiasco what happens when you contract to the private sector. They take the profits and the service delivery either goes down the tubes completely or the public sector delivers often at additional cost fro that which could have been the case if they were contracted to deliver it. Frequently we have paid twice and received a suboptimal service.

    The way this "managed" was diabolical and politically driven, NHS Direct should have just migrated to the new number. Nicholson must go, how many lives must be lost before he can be considered guilty of corporate manslaughter or even murder

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