Exclusive: Safety fears spark GP call to halt NHS 111 service

Exclusive - Data from leaked DH report highlight rise in emergency hospital admissions in NHS 111 pilot areas.

Dr Holden: 'It is time that the NHS 111 procurement process and the out-of-hours reprocurement exercises are stopped' (Photograph: JH Lancy)
Dr Holden: 'It is time that the NHS 111 procurement process and the out-of-hours reprocurement exercises are stopped' (Photograph: JH Lancy)

GPs have called for the suspension of NHS 111 services after DH data revealed a sharp rise in emergency hospital admissions in pilot areas.

GP leaders also called for a delay in the reprocurement of out-of-hours services by PCTs.

A DH document obtained by GP, NHS 111 Operations Group report - version 1.5, shows that in four NHS 111 pilot sites, 'non-elective' admissions rose by up to 7% in the last quarter of 2010/11.

Between September 2010 and March 2011 non-elective admissions went up by 7% in County Durham and Darlington, compared with the same period the previous year.

Between December 2010 and March 2011 non-elective admission went up by 7% in Lincolnshire and in Luton, and 4% in Nottinghamshire.

SHAs have been working towards the national roll-out of NHS 111 in England since September 2011. Although the report's figures are from the early stages of the pilots, GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden said that GPC members had reported similar concerns.

'I believe it is time that the NHS 111 procurement process and the out-of-hours reprocurement exercises are stopped,' Dr Holden said.

NHS Alliance urgent care lead Rick Stern said it was important to learn from the data and understand them, rather than criticising NHS 111.

But he agreed it could be helpful to pause the procurement roll-out. 'There may well be a case for learning first and carrying out the procurement process later, when local leads have had a chance to understand what is best for their area,' he said.

Alongside NHS 111, Dr Holden said he was very concerned about PCTs reprocuring out-of-hours services, which would leave CCGs holding the contract for a service they had no part in setting up. 'It's a scorched-earth policy,' he said. 'They risk wrecking a system that is adequate at the moment,' he added.

The GPC's position on NHS 111 is 'under very active review' following concerns raised by members, Dr Holden revealed.

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