Concern over proposed NHS 111 number

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Further concerns have been raised about the free one stop number for patients with urgent but not life threatening symptoms which is due to be introduced in April 2013.

The British Medical Association (BMA) – supported by other medical organisations – believes that existing services may come under strain and have asked for the deadline be relaxed. The Government is considering this request. Last month, a new non emergency 101 police phone line was launched and has received more than 2.5 million calls.

The plan is that a patient will call 111 and speak to an operator who is trained in the same way as a 999 operator. The operator will be able to send out an ambulance or put the patient through to a nurse, book an out of hours GP appointment or direct the caller to a pharmacist or dentist.

This contrasts with the existing NHS Direct service where calls are answered by a non clinical operator who does not have the capacity to request ambulances or book appointments. The patient will be called back to speak to a nurse or doctor.

The 111 line is currently being trialled in Luton, County Durham, Darlington, Lincoln, Nottingham, the Isle of Wight and parts of Derby and Lancashire.

The BMA supports the principle behind NHS 111, but acknowledges that doctors have raised a number of concerns over it.

Julie Crossley, a Clinical Negligence Lawyer at Ashtons Legal, comments: “Concerns are being raised that some patients will actually receive lower quality care as the clinicians who triage all calls to their out of hours provider are to be replaced by non clinicians when NHS 111 takes over”.

“This will see a non clinical operator having to make decisions which would previously have been made by a nurse or doctor. This could ultimately lead to mistakes being made, resulting in more claims by patients who are not dealt with effectively. The Health organisations are urging that the scheme be given more time before being implemented as it could lead to a rise in the number of anxious patients visiting GP surgeries and A&E Departments – adding further pressure to teams which are already over-stretched.”


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