Doctors and medical staff are beginning to question the safety of a new non-emergency NHS telephone advice line launching in England.
The 111 service is set to replace NHS Direct, and is currently being piloted in many regions but has already shown to be quite problematic, with some callers left on hold for hours.
Dr Laurence Buckman, the British Medical Association’s GP committee chair, says ”wider rollout should be stalled.”
The Department of Health says it is giving some areas ”extra time.”
The BMA is seriously concerned that these failures are not only having impact on other, already overstretched NHS services, but potentially putting patient safety at risk”
The NHS Direct 0845 4647 service will continue to be available to callers in areas where the NHS 111 service is not yet available. I personally am not a fan of NHS direct or any rehash of it. I have called the service on numerous occasions and found the telephone staff to be incompetent and not very useful since they are not medically trained. I still fail to understand what their role is in the NHS. It seems like yet another way to cut corners and save money, at the cost of patient care. It has been outlined that its purpose is for cases which ‘require fast medical care but are not a 999 emergency’. I am still struggling to differentiate between the two, as I believe a medical situation that requires fast medical care is, by its very nature, a 999 medical emergency. Apart from perhaps forming a heimlich maneuver, which normal 999 call operators are trained to assist in.
I suppose the only enticing element of the 111 service is potentially avoiding the long waiting times in the A&E departments . It is this failure of the NHS which makes people even have a need for this kind of service. The problem now is that people’s lives have been put at risk by misinformation and not being able to meet the volume of demand. The NHS needs to get rid of this service and improve waiting times and efficiency in the A&E departments up and down the country. Tax payers are being denied of a service that they are entitled to and it really is disappointing that it has had to come to this. To give an idea of the kind of failures we are talking about, I have included some personal accounts from the general public on this new 111 service.
”Our son (11) had a high temperature last Saturday, we called 111 at 7.45 pm, and were told that a clinician would call back. After two and a half hours of waiting we called back ourselves, the nurse told us to give paracetamol and closed the call! After ringing back again, we finally got an appointment at midnight – he needed a 10 day course of antibiotics! Not much faith here I’m afraid…”
“I called 111 about my 20 month old daughter. After asking about her symptoms the operator said “I don’t know what to do” so I asked if she could be seen in the out of hours clinic at the hospital. Good job I did as she was admitted. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the service and is a big worry for how it will affect people who don’t want to make a fuss and be pushy.”
“Called 0845 4647 late last night (Sunday) hoping to locate an out of hours pharmacy. Went through automated Q&A to do with location only to get message that this service had closed and should call 111 instead. On calling 111 got automated message advising of extremely long wait times. Got info via web in the end but this contradicts Howe statement and does not augur well for the new service.”