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Is 111 worth all the money?

Portfolio politics

Louise Newson

Monday, 08 February 2016

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headset_shutterstock_367944653.jpgThere has been a lot in the press about the case of William Mead, the little boy from Cornwall who died in 2014 from septicaemia. This had not been diagnosed by either his GP or the NHS out-of-hours 111 helpline.

Jeremy Hunt has responded by acknowledging that there are things that need to be done better.

I have been spending some time reflecting on this and considering the true value of NHS 111. The call handlers are not medically trained and so it is very hard from them to have the knowledge and experience in certain situations. There are medically trained staff working too but there are reports of one nurse being left to cover a population of 2.3 million people.

Many people find NHS 111 very frustrating due to the number of questions asked. Most of the patients I have spoken to who have used this service have been advised to either go to A&E or to see their own doctor the following day. Some questions that patients have been asked are inappropriate or completely irrelevant.

There clearly is a demand for this service – over the past fiver years the service has handled around 24 million calls.

The BMA wanted to have an analysis of the impact of NHS 111 on the health service, as there was thought to be some evidence that their advice was leading to more people wanting to see their doctor for minor ailments.

I could not find accurate information on the cost of the NHS 111 service but it must be huge. Is it really cost effective? Surely we all managed in the past without this service so I wonder whether the money spent on this service would be better spent elsewhere in the NHS?

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Louise Newson

Louise is a part-time GP in Solihull, as well as a writer for numerous medical publications, including She is an Editor and Reviewer for e-learning courses for the RCGP. She is an Editor for Geriatric Medicine journal and the British Journal of Family Medicine. Louise has contributed to various healthcare articles in many different newspapers and magazines and is the spokesperson for The Information Standard. She has also done television and radio work. Louise is a medical consultant for Maverick TV and has participated regularly in ‘Embarrassing Bodies Live from the Clinic’. Louise has three young children and is married to a consultant urological surgeon. Although her spare time is limited she enjoys practising ashtanga yoga regularly and loves road cycling – she has raised over £2K for a local charity, Molly Olly Wishes by competing in a 120km cycle ride!

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