Doctors urge delay on new NHS helpline
Published on 28 March 2013 01:30 PM
The new NHS non-emergency helpline has been criticised by the British Medical Association (BMA), with a leading doctor calling for the service to be stopped amid fears that patients are at risk.
The BMA, a body that represents doctors in Britain, has written to the NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson with its concerns about the 111 advice line service - due to replace the old NHS Direct.
Department of Health officials believe the line could be a huge benefit to older patients who currently face difficulty in visiting their GP.
Quality of advice questioned
Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA's GP committee, has questioned the quality of advice given to patients of the service which is due to go live across England on Monday April 1.
He told the BBC that, during pilot schemes, patients had been forced to wait for hours for advice, and that the service was a 'chaotic mess'.
Dr Buckman added that the 111 service was placing a strain on parts of the NHS that were already stretched, and this was potentially putting patients at risk.
He said there had been widespread reports of patients being unable to get through to an available operator, or being forced to wait for several hours for a call back with the requested health information.
In Greater Manchester, and other areas, Dr Buckman said the NHS 111 system effectively crashed under the weight of calls it was receiving.
He also believed the quality of advice being offered was questionable in some instances, and he commented that the BMA had been warning the Government about the issues with the NHS 111 system for almost two years.
He believes that the Government must act to ensure that patient safety is guaranteed.
Ministers did admit this week that the introduction of the 111 telephone service had faced some 'teething problems'.
However, Dr Buckman was more damning in calling for the service launch to be delayed until it is 'fully safe for the public'.
He said patient safety must not be sacrificed just to meet political deadlines for the launch of a service that 'doesn't work properly'.
Copyright Press Association 2013