NHS 111: Profits cannot be placed ahead of Patient Care

9 January 2014

NHS 111: Profits cannot be placed ahead of Patient Care

The right level of patient care provided by the 111 service is absolutely critical to ensuring patient safety, a director of the one of the leading suppliers of the service has said. The director of IC24, a highly-rated provider of 111 in Essex and Norfolk, has said that the effectiveness of the 111 advice line can only be guaranteed if patients are firmly placed before the desire for profit.

The 111 phone number is designed to ease the pressure from accident and emergency departments and paramedic services who often find their resources severely tested and placed under strain. This means that the level of clinical back up through the 111 service must be sufficient in order to provide the best patient led level of care.

Lorraine Gray told Sky News: "We are a social enterprise - a not-for-profit company - so any surplus we make we plough back into enhancing care for our patients.

"We have more clinicians per call handler than is the minimum for the licence so that our staff feel supported.

"We don't pay big dividends, we don't drive around in big cars, so it goes back to our patients. And we don't take on contracts that we don't believe we can deliver to a high standard."

NHS 111 has replaced NHS Direct and GP out-of-hours care across much of England. It has faced criticism as the majority of its call handlers are not medically trained, with some regions failing to fully train up staff as well as in providing sufficient levels of medical back-up.

Sir Bruce Keogh, the director of NHS England, believes the 111 advice line is an effective way of alleviating the pressure of A&E units when coping with periods of increased patient demand, particularly over the winter months. This previous Christmas saw such A&E units being unable to cope with extra patient demand, with thousands of operations having to be cancelled with patients often being shunted from ward to ward due to bed shortages and insufficient resources.

Mrs Gray says the 111 service needs to be properly run in order to provide the best out-of-hours service.  She further said: "It's early days but I think if it's done properly and invested in properly - so there are the right number of clinicians to call handlers - I think it is the way forward.

"It's the ideal way to direct patients to the available services whether that's walk-in centres, their own GP practices or pharmacists."

What is your opinion on the 111 service? Have you experienced a poor level of care and advice through the service, or at any A&E or hospital?

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