Nearly 30 triage nurses who assess calls to out-of-hours GP services in Lincolnshire have been told they could lose their jobs due to a pilot scheme for the 111 service in the area.
From April their role will be performed by the new non-emergency helpline, which is run by NHS Direct and staffed by non-nursing call handlers.
Lincolnshire is one of four areas to test the 111 number in a year-long pilot, which was announced in November.
The triage nurses, employed by Lincolnshire Community Health Services, are currently in the midst of a 30-day consultation period ending on March 10.
The 28 jobs, based at two different sites, were mainly part-time and the equivalent of 13 full-time posts.
Lizzie Carroll-Thom, urgent care lead manager for NHS Lincolnshire, a nurse by background, hoped many of the staff could be redeployed to direct patient care.
But she told Nursing Times that patients would be better served under the new system. Previously calls for out-of-hours doctors would be answered by non-clinical staff who sent information electronically to the triage team.
Triage nurses would then ring callers back but this could take up to an hour, she said. “We’d lose some people who went off to A&E because it could seem like a long time to wait if someone’s ill or you’ve got small children crying,” she said.
She said the 111 service, which is run along different lines to the standard NHS Direct helpline, was staffed by “highly-trained” advisers who had passed proficiency tests in using the “very stringent” NHS Pathways triage tool.
“They have qualified nurses walking around that they can ask for advice,” she added.
The expectation is the 111 service, which has dealt with more than 27,800 calls to date, will be used as a model for rolling out the service in the East Midlands and other parts of the country.
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