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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

RCGP calls for urgent action to protect patients during NHS 111 rollout

10 May, 2013
The Royal College of General Practitioners is calling for urgent action to protect patients in the rollout of the new system.

RCGP Chair, Dr Clare Gerada, said: "The concept of a unified number to support 999 is a sound one but the implementation of NHS 111 has been significantly problematic. Questions also need to be asked about why a completely new system was rolled out on Easter Bank Holiday at the same time as the NHS was getting to grips with the biggest ever top-down reorganisation in its history".


"We now have a 'patchwork quilt' of services, with NHS 111 working well in some areas, the system seriously flawed in other parts of the country, and patients left in a situation of not knowing where to turn for help or facing long delays in trying to access the service.


"Once again, GPs are bearing the brunt of the criticism when it is GPs who came to the rescue to protect patients and save the system from total collapse over Easter, and who are continuing to shore it up".


"NHS 111 was rolled out far too early, with unnecessary pressure placed on some sites to go live before they were ready. We are also concerned about how the service itself is being run - some areas seem to be properly resourced with well-trained clinical staff whilst in other areas it is struggling to cope with insufficient numbers of 'call centre' handlers, some of whom have received only a few weeks training.   This is having a significant impact, not just on emergency care but on GP surgeries, walk in centres and urgent care centres".


"We would welcome any promise of new funding in A&E services but it is vital that this does not come at the expense of general practice. Today, over one million patients will see their GP. We see and  deal with  the vast majority of patient contacts within the NHS and the most effective way of protecting hospitals and patients is by investing in general practice and having more GPs spending longer with their patients and in their communities".


"We now have a situation where patients have lost confidence in the new NHS 111 service before it is even fully up and running.  The responsibility for this lies at the door of the Government and it is unacceptable to carry on blaming GPs for what is going wrong with the system".


"Decisive action is needed so that patients - and health professionals - are reassured about the effectiveness and ability of NHS 111 to deliver the service right across England".


"There is too much at stake to put these failures down to teething problems and just hope for the best."

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