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In The News In The Healthcare Market ……111 Health Hotline Delayed Until June

Posted on May 10th 2013

GP's welcomed the delay, saying it was an opportunity to rethink the way the system worked, amid concern that it is increasing the burden on clinics because of a lack of adequate advice that could avoid the need for callers to attend accident and emergency clinics or GP surgeries.

The free round-the-clock service is for "when you need medical help fast but it's not a 999 emergency", public information produced by the NHS explains. It should be used by people who think they need to go to A&E or another urgent NHS service, as well as those who do not know whom to call or do not have a GP to contact. (In areas where the number is not yet in full operation, the 0845 NHS Direct number remains available as a backup.)

Fourteen different organisations are providing the service, including NHS Direct, seven local ambulance services, and private companies including Harmoni, which is running 111 in three London areas, and Derbyshire Health United.

"Going slowly is what we asked for and is what they should have planned for initially," said Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association's general practitioners' committee. "The original plan to have 111 as a standalone service from 1 April hasn't materialised.

"The key problem is they don't have the capacity to take on the number of calls that the system is generating. We also need greater clinical involvement with nurses and doctors to work alongside the call handlers."

The Patients Association said last week it was very concerned about the imminent introduction of the 111 helpline, citing confusion as to when people are supposed to use it and concern about outcomes in pilot areas such as Manchester.

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In The News In The Healthcare Market ……111 Health Hotline Delayed Until June