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NHS Direct cuts frontline budget by £7.9m


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.


Readers' comments (17)

  • why aren't these nurses working on the front line caring for patients?

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  • "why aren't these nurses working on the front line caring for patients?"
    In answer to the above question there are many at NHS Direct who for health or other reasons can't work caring for patients but NHSD allows us to utilise our skills in a different way. By empowering people to make the correct care choices hopefully preventing them from needing care in hospital.

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  • @ anonymous 29 June 0908hrs.

    I echo the point made by anonymous 10:49 but follow that up with the question as to what your opinion would be of having untrained or inexperienced workers employed by NHSD instead? I'm sure it would be cheaper.......

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  • my question really concerns the use of the NHS Direct when these nurses might be better engaged in bedside nursing of patients where there is a shortage.

    there is little point in spending years of training and tax payers money just to sit in a call centre. patients in hospital need nursing not chatting on the phone about their need for nursing!

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  • I worked at NHSDirect for four years before they closed the call center down and made us all redundant despite our 97% satisfaction rate.
    You do need experienced Nurse's as each call is different so for instant you could be with a suicidal patient, next call have a Mum phone up when he child has breathing problems, next call someone possibly having a MI. No two calls are the same And these calls are just a normal shift for us it did get on some days much worse

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  • but what is the need for these call centres when there is a shortage of nurses on the front line? if someone is having an MI s/he should be calling an ambulance for immediate treatment not chatting to a nurse in a call centre!

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  • I think if there has to be NHS cuts, then NHS Direct is a worthy candidate. I feel for my qualified colleagues who may be made redundant, but I genuinely believe that NHSD has been the biggest white elephant ever. I’m not sure if you’ve ever used the service, but I have once and its limitations were instantly obvious. Having had to speak to a call handler, then a nurse, the eventually I got to speak with a GP who told me I should take my child to A&E (which I didn’t) it was clear that there are only two options for anyone that contacts NHSD: go to A&E or make an appointment with your own GP.

    Not only is NHSD extremely expensive (most are paid Band 6 or 7) it has the highest sick rate in the whole of the NHS and the information you receive I.e. the prompts the call handler uses could be accessed via the web and save the cost of the call and the cost of the staff.

    NHS Direct nice if you can afford it, but we simply can’t in the current climate.

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  • I have a disability which prevents me from working in the hospital setting - I am not looking for sympathy or to claim benefits, so I work as a band 6 Nurse Advisor at NHSD. I work permanent evening shifts, I take one call after another all night, and it is very intensive and stressful on occasions. But, I am happy to be providing the public with a vital service. And I personally am confident that I save a great deal of unnecessary A+E and GP attendances. As, if these people hadn't rang NHSD, many would be calling 999 or rushing off the A+E etc. However, I must say that the way the service is operated has much room for improvement. For instance a lot of callers could be given self care advice before they reach a nurse, which could clear a lot of the call back queues, which are typically in the 100's most evenings. And there is a blame culture, and I think this hinders some of the nurses decisions due to fear of criticism or reprisal. But white elephant? I think not!

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  • there are not enough front line nurses to proved a high standard, or in some cases even adequate level, of nursing care. there are also dangerous deficiencies in other areas. money that could be used in these areas should therefore not be spent on call centres or other non-essential services.

    modernise the nhs so that it able to more realistically meet the basic growing and changing demands of the population and invest any profits in state of the art care and only then should extras such as call centres be considered, or provided by private companies. why should a tax payer have to put up with considerable discomfort, inconvenience and stress on a waiting list, through lack of adequate funding and resources when mums are ring up to find out whether they should take their kid to a GP or AandE. it is ludicrous.

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  • Anonymous | 29-Jun-2011 12:41 pm

    "my question really concerns the use of the NHS Direct when these nurses might be better engaged in bedside nursing of patients where there is a shortage."

    I do not work for NHS Direct, but I have friends and ex-colleagues who do. All are highly skilled, experienced nurses and there are often very good reasons why they are no longer "engaged in bedside nursing". After 20-30 years of physically slaving away for little thanks, no money and limited prospects of advancement, they've had enough. Some have been left with serious health issues following years of stress, unsocial shifts and outdated manual handling practises (yes, we were once taught how to "lift patients legally"). If you want more nurses at the bedside, then do something about it. Lobby your union, MP, get off your backside and stop blaming your colleagues, who are actually preventing unnecessary admissions, whilst continuing to carry out a stressful job. Patients are not only to be found in hospitals, or indeed, in bed.

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