NHS Direct, which employs 800 nurses, is to cut its frontline staff budget by more than 10% as part of a £14.6m savings plan - but the body has expressed confidence that redundancies can be avoided.
Just under £8m has already been taken out of the £67m frontline staffing budget for 2011-12. A further £2m-£4m must be found to cope with loss of income through reduced call volumes as the 0845 number is replaced by the new NHS 111 urgent care number.
NHS Direct is running three of the four NHS 111 pilots, which advise patients on the most appropriate form of care, and hopes to win more contracts as the service is rolled out nationally.
About 40 % of NHS Direct’s 2,000 frontline staff are nurses or midwives. NHS 111, which is due to replace 0845 completely in April 2013, will be less nurse intensive.
However, NHS Direct chief nurse Tricia Hamilton told Nursing Times the predicted increase in call volumes through the free 111 number meant the service would need about the same number of nurses as currently employed, although they would work differently. Staff will be moved over to the new service as contracts are agreed, which could potentially lead to recruitment.
The service also plans to save money by changing the skill mix and recruiting more band five nurses and band four assitant practitioners.