Future of NHS help-line in doubt

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THE future of the new NHS non-emergency telephone service piloted in Wigan has been thrown into doubt after one of the major providers admitted it was facing severe problems.

NHS Direct won 11 of the 46 contracts for the 111 service, which is in the process of being rolled out, but the organisation has now pulled out of two areas and admitted the others may be “unsustainable”.

The 111 service has been plagued with difficulties in recent months.

In March, NHS 111 was launched in Wigan but was withdrawn within days after a number of people were unable to get through and one elderly patient had to wait 90 minutes for a call back from NHS 111.

It was meant to go live in April, but ministers relaxed this deadline when it became clear many of the areas would not be ready.

By the start of May only half of the services, run by a variety of organisations including ambulance trusts, private companies and NHS Direct, were fully up-and-running.

According to GPs’ magazine Pulse, there have been 22 incidents classed as serious across all providers of 111 lines.

The organisation added it was “not unduly concerned” about the level of incidents.