GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman has written to health secretary Andrew Lansley to express GPs' concerns over the roll out of NHS 111, a non-urgent out-of-hours number, first revealed by GP last month.
Dr Buckman said that GPs were concerned over the rapid roll-out of the number. He warned that NHS 111 procurement decisions were being rushed and did not include clinical commissioners who would ultimately be responsible for NHS 111 in their area.
Dr Buckman wrote: ‘Our key concerns include specific problems in some of the pilot areas; failure to ensure a smooth transition or to address the impact on existing services; fitness for purpose of the new service; value for money and local sensitivity; and finally a rushed procurement process that could leave clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) little choice of provider.’
The GPC warned that if the procurement process was not slowed down and more flexible deadline for full implementation for NHS 111 was not given there would be ‘serious unintended consequences’.
Dr Buckman wrote: ‘We seek your assurance that the procurement of NHS 111 services will be slowed down, to allow for proper evaluation of the pilots; and that you will adopt a flexible deadline for full implementation of the service to ensure that fledgling CCGs can play a full role in procurement decisions.
‘We are concerned that a failure to do this could lead to serious unintended consequences that could be avoided with a more flexible approach.’
The ambulance service network, part of the NHS Confederation, agreed that NHS 111 should only be rolled out once the pilot schemes had been properly assessed.
Ambulance service network director Jo Webber said: ‘The timeframes for putting NHS 111 in place are currently just too tight to be sure it will work in a consistent way across the country.'
The network echoed the GPC's concerns that clinical commissioners were not being included in the number’s roll-out. Ms Webber said: ‘A headlong rush to implementation will not necessarily benefit patients. It is vital to have buy-in first from clinical staff and future clinical commissioners.
‘This takes time to develop and the initial results from the pilots suggest that NHS 111 is really delivering where strong working relationships have been in place for some time.’