Staff at NHS Direct helpline services are holding a 24-hour “work in” to highlight the importance of the role they carry out.
The nursing and health advisers in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire and Cornwall will report for work in their own time and take calls from patients around the clock to ensure the best quality health service is provided.
The “work in”, which is taking place on the 64th birthday of the NHS, will also highlight staff concerns over NHS Direct being replaced by NHS 111.
The new service, which launches in August in Nottingham, will see fewer nurses taking calls - just 17% compared with 75% calls taken by nurses working for NHS Direct, according to the union Unison.
Currently, there are two qualified nurses for every health adviser, but under the new system there will be just one nurse for every six advisers, the union claims. Patients will also not be clinically assessed or be given access to emergency dental or contraceptive advice.
The Department of Health has been urged by Unison to publish details of a report carried out by Sheffield University looking at the potential impact of the new NHS 111 service.
Sandra Maxwell, Unison NHS Direct nursing convenor, said: “Those living in rural areas seeking advice on injuries they have had or their child’s illness, will have little option but to travel long distances to attend A&E, when advice previously given by a qualified NHS Direct nurse may have resolved the issue.”
Michelle Goodman, the union’s nursing rep in Truro, added: “We feel passionately that as nurses we need to let the public know what is happening at NHS Direct and in particular the loss in access of emergency nursing advice under the new NHS 111 signposting service.”