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Nurses bear brunt of frontline NHS Direct job losses


About 100 full-time nursing posts are being axed by NHS Direct due to the switch to a new non-emergency telephone number – despite previous commitments from the government that nurses’ jobs were safe.

The 100 posts represent 90% of the total frontline posts NHS Direct is being forced to cut in the move to the new NHS 111 service. Unions estimate the actual numbers of nurses affected will be much higher as a large proportion of the NHS Direct workforce works part-time.

NHS 111 has already gone live in many parts of the country. It is due to fully replace the NHS Direct service across England from 21 March. A range of providers have won contracts to run the new service including ambulance trusts, the private sector out-of-hours firm Harmoni and NHS Direct itself.

NHS Direct will run NHS 111 in a third of areas and will need 185 fewer full-time equivalent nurses than it employs at present. Its nurses will also have the opportunity to transfer into 85 FTE posts created at other NHS 111 providers.

In June last year NHS Direct chief executive Nick Chapman told Nursing Times the Department of Health did not expect any nurses to be made redundant as a result of the introduction of NHS 111.

Michael Walker, Unison national officer for NHS Direct, said: “The DH said no nurses would lose their jobs, why hasn’t that commitment been honoured?”

A spokesman for the DH said officials were “working closely with NHS Direct and other NHS 111 providers” to keep the number of redundancies to a “minimum”. 

NHS Direct said in a statement that some nurses faced redundancy because they lived too far away from the call centres that would be providing NHS 111, or did not want to transfer to non-NHS providers that could not guarantee their existing terms and conditions.


Readers' comments (13)

  • NHS Direct was staffed by fully qualified nurses for a reason. The remaining nurses left, will probably only be there for a long enough for non-healthcare staff trained up and run the service like in telesales call centres. They want to minimise redundancies, because they don't want to pay for them.

    Why not go the whole-hog, save more money by sacking all the nurses and tender the contracts out abroad to overseas call centres? cheap as chips where the cost of living is less than it is here and definitely too far away for us to commute to. They can speak pretty good English and a computerised system with drop-down menus and likely responses - sounds like Arnie in the Terminator ;)
    We'll probably end up calling our own doctor and visiting the local A&E/Urgent care centre in any case (if its still open). Its not going to save the NHS money, its probably going to cost more in the long term.

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  • It is so sad how a service that is well praised is being re-organised unnecessarily. We must all be aware by now that the overall plan is to increase competition within and across services. You would think that the government would have learnt by now that even in the private sector this doesn't always work and the public sector just has that something extra where caring really does come before profit. I really do have sleepless nights thinking about how our NHS will crumble.

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  • yet another slap in the face for nhs workers from this tory govt

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  • As usual, Unison speaks out against something and then does nothing about it. The RCN is no better. Only one union has opposed changes to our terms and conditions (Agenda for Change), and that is Unite.

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  • Annon
    Obviously not a nurse at NHS Direct -

    UNISON have organsised a series of work-in's and occupations to highlight threat to NHS Direct also has just carried out an "indicative ballot" for industrial action -

    Unison and Rcn stopped Lansley's original plans to sack everyone

    The difference is at NHS Direct the nurses have been making a stand

    If only other groups of nurses were as well organsied.

    I am sure nurses in both Unison and Rcn will increasingly have to stand up and fight

    But can I salute all the staff at NHS Direct for the fight they have waged to date

    Final point Unite (Amicus as it was) actually opposed the introduction of Agenda for Change) fact you seem to have forgotten

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  • tinkerbell

    And so the end is in sight of what was OUR NHS. At last we get to see their real intentions. Hope everyone has private healthcare in place for when this lot kicks off. OUR NHS has been stolen from us, without our permission, without our knowledge and behind closed doors.

    At the NHS rally i went to in London David Owen said 'you's lot really haven't got a clue what's going on behind the scenes'.

    Seems not, only it's worse than probably even he thought.

    'A new fight over NHS privatisation has just begun. Jeremy Hunt is trying to use new powers, hidden within last year's controversial NHS laws, to force local GPs to privatise more health services. [1] This is one of the things we were afraid might happen - and now our worst fears are being confirmed. We need to do all we can to stop it.

    Jeremy Hunt's new privatisation plot is contained within "NHS competition regulations". [2] Usually these kinds of rules get quickly rubber-stamped by Parliament. This time, we need to get MPs and Lords to stand up to Hunt and block his plans. [3]

    It’s a long shot, but we have a chance of stopping these changes because Hunt is breaking promises made to MPs when NHS laws were voted through last year. [4] If we generate a huge, public outcry to put pressure on the politicians who clung on to those promises last time the government attacked our NHS, we can convince them to stop these new laws.

    Sign the petition against Jeremy Hunt's new NHS privatisation plan here – we’ve got just a couple of days before we’ll need to deliver it:

    Hunt's new regulations (Statutory Instrument 257 under Section 75 of the Health & Social Care Act 2012) are like a catalogue of our worst fears. [5] GPs would have to open up every part of local health services to private companies, whether or not it’s what they or local people want. It would speed up the break up of the NHS, giving profit-hungry companies new rights to muscle in.

    Last year, the government promised it wouldn’t go as far as forcing privatisation on local health services. Lots of MPs and Lords said these promises convinced them to vote for the NHS law. Now, we need to go back to these same MPs and Lords, and tell them to find some backbone. If they really voted for the law because of those promises, now they’ve got no excuse not to put a stop to Hunt’s latest privatising move.

    Let’s build a petition to hand in to each of the MPs and Lords who believed the government’s promises on privatisation:

    All over the country, 38 Degrees members have been working together to convince their local NHS decision makers to do the right thing and limit privatisation in their area. Now, government is trying to take that power away from local doctors and the patients they serve.

    This is going to be tough. It could be the start of the second round of the fight to protect everything that’s precious about the NHS. But it’s the right thing to do, because we know that when private companies move in, all too often it doesn’t end well for patients.

    Sign the petition now:

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  • NHS Direct Nurses & Health Advisors also solid during Pension strike a few years ago

    NHS Direct staff have a good record of union organisation

    Wish people would actually find out the truth first before posting annon coments -


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  • I believe that contracts have been awarded to companies on price alone. I suspect that bids have been made based on information about skills and efficiency from sites already running the service pilots. Some of the pilots are run by NHS Direct staff who are now in the delightful position of not knowing whether redundancy is looming, or if there will be Band 5 or Band 2 jobs picking up the pieces.
    The sad thing is that with qualified and experienced staff it works well. I'm worried about the future. I don't want medical advice from an 18 year old agency worker with a week's training.

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  • Anonymous | 25-Feb-2013 10:10 pm

    there was talk somewhere in the press about using prisoners at these call centres.

    also what about data protection if all and sundry are getting these jobs?

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  • It isn't just NHSD nurses who are losing their jobs. The OOH telephone triage nurses are going too.

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