UNISON is warning the new NHS 111 helpline to replace NHS Direct is seriously undermining standards, weakening the NHS’ ability to respond to national outbreaks such as the flu pandemic and the London bombings as well as leading to thousands of extra patients swamping all ready over-stretched hospital A&Es and GP Surgeries.
Despite UNISON’s call for a pause in the roll out of the new 111 service contracts, backed by the BMA and the RCN, contracts are still being awarded with no regard to the impact on the NHS.
UNISON National Officer for NHS Direct Michael Walker said: “We’re very concerned at the reduction of qualified nurses providing information to patients. This will lead to a failure to diagnose patients’ clinical assessments early, resulting in a huge increase in expensive ambulance call-outs, people going to A&E for help and presentations at GP surgeries.
“The pace and speed of the roll-out ignores advice from unions and professionals that it is damaging to patient care. The new service commissioned locally also fails to include emergency dental advice, emergency contraceptive advice and mental health advice.
“Increasingly experts are concerned at the fragmentation of what was NHS Direct. There are real concerns over the loss of expertise and the inability of the new 111 to provide national resilience and Cobra advice in emergency situations such as another pandemic flu outbreak or the London bombings.”
A survey of GP’s recently concluded that over 70% had major concerns at the new 111 service.