Exclusive: Call for GP-led NHS 111 to be linked to out-of-hours

Ministers should consider the national roll-out of a combined NHS 111 and out-of-hours service led by local GPs in England, LMC leaders believe.

Dr John Grenville: 'A combined service should be looked at if the politicians continue with their determination to roll 111 out by 2013' (Photograph: JH Lancy)
Dr John Grenville: 'A combined service should be looked at if the politicians continue with their determination to roll 111 out by 2013' (Photograph: JH Lancy)

The GPC called for NHS 111 pilots to be halted earlier this year after emergency admissions rose sharply in pilot areas (GP, 1 February).

But LMC leaders have highlighted a GP-led organisation that successfully combined out-of-hours care with the roll-out of the non-emergency number as a potential solution.

In an NHS 111 pilot in Derbyshire, the service is run by out-of-hours provider Derbyshire Health United, which has a GP majority on its board.

Its chief executive Lindsey Wallis said: ‘We believe that NHS 111 and out-of-hours should be integrated and we are currently working on a combined model.’

By using GP input, they had been able to improve the ‘Pathways’ system used to triage NHS 111 calls, she added.

She said the service had been very positively received by local GPs ‘because we are GP-led and we have an open and engaged relationship’.

Derbyshire LMC chairman Dr John Grenville argued that the combined model should be used when NHS 111 is rolled out nationally.

‘It delivers a consistently good out-of-hours service and seems to be running the 111 pilot well. We believe it is a model that should be looked at if the politicians continue with their determination to roll 111 out by 2013.’

Other LMCs have expressed concern that NHS 111 would remove all triage responsibility from GP-led out-of-hours and destabilise services.

In North Staffordshire a GP-led out-of-hours service is being put out to tender by the Staffordshire PCT cluster.

North Staffordshire LMC chairman Dr Paul Scott said the LMC feared the tender process, due to start in April, would coincide with the start of NHS 111.

Dr Prasad Rao, chairman of out-of-hours provider North Staffordshire Urgent Care, warned the introduction of NHS 111 could leave GPs at the mercy of call handlers.

‘If NHS 111 says the patient needs a visit I’ll just have to go and oblige,’ he said.

‘If we don’t procure the control of NHS 111 it could easily destabilise the out-of-hours service,’ he warned.

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