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Future of NHS 111 comes under scrutiny

NHS England to make recommendations on phone service

Jo Carlowe

Wednesday, 01 May 2013

The future of phone triage service NHS 111 looks in doubt following a decision by NHS England to launch an urgent review into the service.

Papers published ahead of Friday’s board meeting reveal that the service is to come under scrutiny.

The purpose of the paper is to: “inform the Board of the work to stabilise delivery of NHS 111 services and define the further programme of work to shape the future of NHS 111 delivery.”

The paper goes on to state: “In moving forward, it is important to learn vital lessons from the past about how the NHS 111 was prepared and launched. Moreover, it is important that NHS England identifies the reasons for some of the service deficiencies and avoids similar problems when implementing other, future, programmes.”

The paper states that while a number of NHS 111 providers have given a good service during the week, some have “struggled at weekends; and a small number have provided an unacceptable service on quality standards, especially at weekends.”

Furthermore, the target of calls answered in under 60 seconds is “a struggle” for a number of providers. Overall the service is described as “fragile in a number of areas and many have needed contingency.”

The paper confirms that NHS England will review the long-term strategic direction for the future of NHS 111 services and will produce recommendations on the future service model and commissioning arrangements.

The proposals will be presented to the board by Dame Barbara Hakin, NHS England’s deputy chief executive.

The roll-out of NHS 111 has already previously been dubbed “chaotic” by many leading health figures, including GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman who in a letter to the chief executive of NHS England in March, described the service as experiencing “major difficulties”.

Similarly, Professor Clare Gerada, chairwoman of The Royal College of General Practitioners, had previously expressed the College’s concern over “serious issues” with the service.

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