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RCN calls for a pause in NHS 111 rollout

The rollout of the new non-emergency number NHS 111 should be paused amid fears over a “loss of clinical expertise”, a nursing representative body has warned.

Following the publication of the latest NHS 111 figures by the Department of Health, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has called upon the government to pause and reconsider the move to the new system.

DH analysis of the 79,484 calls made to the 111 service in February 2012 showed 31% of calls were handled by clinical staff - leaving the RCN “extremely concerned” over a potential loss of clinical expertise.

The body warns NHS 111 will lead to thousands of people taking “unnecessary and expensive” trips to hospital in ambulances and attending their GP practices.

“These statistics hide the demise of one of our most cherished NHS services - NHS Direct,” said Dr Peter Carter, RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary.

“People calling the service are only speaking to someone clinically qualified a third of the time. [This will result] in just passing anxious patients from pillar to post and will cost the NHS more money in the long term.

“We call on the Government to pause this process, evaluate the evidence, and reconsider this move.”

Nevertheless, 92% of callers were very or fairly satisfied with the advice given by NHS 111 employees for the period between April to October 2011.

NHS 111 is currently being piloted in seven sites: County Durham and Darlington, Lincolnshire, Luton, Nottingham City, Isle of Wight, Derbyshire and the North West.

Question: Do you think the rollout of the NHS 111 service should be paused?