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NHS 111 is ‘steadily improving’


The troubled new NHS phone triage service, NHS 111, is “steadily improving”, it has been claimed.

NHS England said today that data on the performance of NHS 111 in April 2013 showed the service was steadily improving, with 92% of patients “very” or “fairly” satisfied with their experience of using it.

The new service is run through a series of contracts with providers, many of whom are ambulance trusts. It was planned to replace NHS Direct across most of England from March.

But it has been beset by problems, including providers failing to start providing the service on schedule and patients being forced to wait for long periods to get through to an advisor.  

In April, there were 566,532 calls to the 111 service compared to 360,526 the previous month, according to the new figures from NHS England.

It said the majority of NHS 111 services in England were now meeting the performance standards – 87% of calls answered in 60 seconds while 4% of calls were abandoned after waiting longer than 30 seconds.

However, NHS England acknowledged that some providers were continuing to fail to meet the standards set especially at weekends.

As report by Nursing Times, earlier this week, the launch of NHS 111 in Devon has been further delayed, making it likely to be one of the last areas of the country to go live.

The county’s two clinical commissioning groups have agreed to postpone the launch of the non-emergency phone number until at least September in order to learn from other areas of the country.


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Readers' comments (9)

  • There's lies, dammed lies, and then there's statistics!

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  • My dad was a GP. But in HIS hour of need the 111 helpline let him down, says Tory MP

    •Anne McIntosh called line but hung up 'in sheer frustration' after 15 minutes
    •Doctor father was showing signs of infection he died from four days later

    Read more:

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  • "There have been “significant improvements” in the service provided by the new NHS 111 phoneline, according to the chief nursing officer".
    Welcome to Jane Cummings la la land.

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  • tinkerbell

    well at this rate of improvement since it's inception it should be a 'centre of excellence' by next tuesday.

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  • tinkerbell | 9-Jun-2013 3:32 pm

    if it is anything like my bank which diverts you to India you can forget it!

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  • Report in the Daily Mail 07/06/13.

    The introduction of this new national helpline has been marred by horror stories. Patients can’t feel anything but an enormous lack of confidence in the service.
    I think GPs should run their own out-of-hours emergency lines, as the GP co-ops do — these are manned by call handlers employed by the GP. Then a GP, possibly even a GP you know, calls you back.
    However, if NHS 111 is to be retained — and many still feel that in principle it is a good idea — then it needs to be managed properly.
    In some areas, the NHS 111 helpline is run by medically trained staff, such as doctors, nurses or paramedics.
    But in many others it’s operated by call handlers who have had a few weeks’ training and rely on a checklist to work out if the caller needs urgent help.
    It’s difficult enough for a doctor or nurse to work out what’s wrong with someone over the phone — you need to see the rash or look at a child with a high temperature.
    But if it’s hard for medics, it’s simply impossible if you have no medical training and are relying on ‘protocols’ — a list of questions that eventually steer you to a medical conclusion.
    As a result of protocols, callers to NHS 111 are being sent by ambulance to A&E for a sore throat, as the Mail revealed earlier this week, because the call handler can’t distinguish between a minor infection and a possibly fatal allergic reaction.

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    Mail on Sunday 09/06/13.

    Doctors are boycotting the 111 NHS phone number because they do not think it is safe.
    One in four of the new GP commissioning groups are not letting 111 call centres decide how their out-of-hours patients should be cared for, because they have little confidence they will get it right.
    Although the 111 system is meant to be available in 90 per cent of England, The Mail on Sunday has found it is not really being used in many parts of the West Midlands, across much of north-west England including most of Greater Manchester, in Cumbria, and in Leicestershire.
    Doctors in Devon and two London boroughs have also decided against using it.
    Doctors in East Cheshire decided against using it after just two days in which there were two ‘clinically critical’ incidents.
    Dr Richard Usher, a GP in Macclesfield, said the decision meant they would have to pay twice for out-of-hours telephone services – once for 111 and once for their local provider.
    He claimed those running 111 call centres, such as NHS Direct and private firm Harmoni, could face a slew of legal claims from GPs’ groups asking for compensation.
    Dr Peter Holden, a Derbyshire GP and British Medical Association negotiator, argued 111 was a cut-price service that had been rushed out.
    He claimed NHS England had ‘quietly started a moratorium on the roll-out a couple of weeks ago when they realised that it was going wrong’.
    People can still ring 111 and get through almost everywhere. But where GPs have rejected it, patients are being immediately forwarded to the existing out-of-hours service, which tends to have more doctors, nurses and paramedics manning the phones.
    The Mail on Sunday contacted all of England’s 211 clinical commissioning groups, the doctors’ organisations now responsible for arranging local healthcare.
    Two-thirds (143) said they were fully using 111.
    But almost a quarter (51) said they had either pulled 111 due to safety concerns, had delayed its introduction for similar reasons, were only using it partially, or had not planned to join until later in the summer.The other 17 failed to respond.
    A spokesman for NHS England said: ‘No new NHS 111 service is being allowed to launch until we are satisfied it is thoroughly tested.’
    He said 92 per cent of callers in April said they were ‘very or fairly satisfied with their NHS 111 experience’.

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  • I work for OOH as a nurse practitioner and the phrase 'ain't broke don't fix it' springs to mind. Nurses used to triage the OOH calls now this is done by 111. What comes to base? Somebody with a sore throat that started when they got up that morning referred to base before 12.00 what have they tried? Nothing. Babies with nappy rash, and any one requesting medication because they forgot to request a repeat prescription is marked as urgent. Patients told they will be called back when appointments are made at a base that they are then unaware of so they default. Thankfully most patients are satisfied once they get to the base it is "the journey" that is failing i.e. 111.

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  • I work in A&E and we continue to be concerned about the quality of information given to patients who call 111. We recently heard of a patient with DKA advised to drink Lucozade!

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