The BMA has called for the roll-out of NHS 111 to be delayed until an ‘independent evaluation’ is published on the pilot sites where it has been implemented.
The motion which was passed yesterday at the BMA’s Annual Representatives' Meeting in Bournemouth, Dorset, comes after the DH announced this month that it was delaying the roll- out for six months to ask clinical commissioning group (CCG) leaders for their views.
GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden told the conference that the roll-out of the phone number for patients with urgent but not life-threatening problems ‘stinks of political imperative over patient care’.
The motion asked for the government to delay the roll-out ‘until the data from the pilot sites has been independently evaluated to inform a reasoned decision about its safety, cost-effectiveness, and impact on in-hours and out-of-hours general practice, and further requires that this independent evaluation is published’.
Dr Holden told the conference: ‘The final report is not published. What is the rush? Let’s be scientists. Let’s have the evaluation. Let’s not play ourselves off the pitch.’
Call handlers for NHS 111 which was introduced August 2010 and now runs in 10 areas in England can send out an ambulance, put someone through to a nurse, book an out-of-hours GP appointment, or direct the caller to a pharmacist or dentist.
The DH announcement earlier this month comes after GP magazine revealed widespread concern among GPs about the service, fearing it will lead to an increase in workload and cut patient care.
A report on the NHS 111 pilots by researchers at Sheffield University, which is still not published, found the service would increase GP visits, A&E attendance and ambulance call-outs.
In a letter to CCGs this month, the DH’s director for improvement and efficiency Jim Easton states the government’s ‘commitment to NHS 111’.
The letter reads: ‘After careful consideration, and having sought the views of senior CCG representatives and other stakeholders, we believe that an extension of up to six months of the original April 2013 deadline may be necessary in some cases.
'That extension will be by application to an expert clinical panel, and should not delay roll-out in those areas that are ready to move ahead. It will however, help ensure that in those areas that need it, time can be taken fully to engage local clinicians and build delivery models for NHS 111 that have the support and endorsement of all local stakeholders.’
The clinical panel is due to publish the criteria ‘shortly’ and CCGs are asked to submit an application via their SHA cluster responsible officer by 27 July.
* View our interactive map to see which areas have already awarded NHS 111 contracts