NHS 111 could support GP appointment systems

NHS Alliance report finds patients lack confidence in general practice as urgent care service providers.

Call centres have 'great potential'
Call centres have 'great potential'

NHS 111 could be used to provide 'vital' support to practice appointment systems and to book GP appointments, the NHS Alliance has said.

A report by the NHS Alliance's Urgent Care Network said many patients lack confidence in daytime general practice as an urgent care service.

'For many patients, the Monday morning experience of routine daytime general practice does not give them confidence that the phone will be answered any better when they have their medical emergency,' it said.

Local NHS 111 call centres have 'great potential' as a backstop of GP telephone access, it argued. 'It could be developed both as a direct 111 access number and as a back-up sitting behind GP urgent care, picking up calls that fail to get answered within a given time.

'It could be the thing that promotes the direct use of general practice as an urgent care service, as opposed to replacing it.'

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said many GPs would be 'extremely alarmed' at the proposals.

'GPs want to provide locally sensitive services and see receptionists as the first point of call for this,' he said. 'To have calls transferred to an anonymous, remote call centre is the antipathy of a responsive service.'

Report author and GP Dr Ray Montague said: 'A signposting service using 111 is a great way of providing options for patients who are unsure where to turn with their urgent healthcare needs. But we need a different emphasis, which seeks to restore and improve urgent primary care delivery within general practice.'

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