NHS Direct to close by April

NHS Direct will close at the end of the current financial year.

Phone service: NHS Direct will close at the end of this financial year

The trust's NHS 111 staff and call centres will be transferred to ambulance trusts by the end of next month.

NHS Direct confirmed in July that it would give up its 111 contracts, which it said were ‘financially unsustainable’.

It was awarded 111 contracts in North Essex and Cornwall, which it failed to begin operating, and contracts in Somerset, Buckinghamshire, east London and the City, south east London, Sutton and Merton, West Midlands, Lancashire and Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire.

NHS Direct said in a statement: ‘Commissioners have now identified alternative providers. NHS Direct’s 111 staff and call centres are due to transfer to five ambulance trusts by the end of November, details of which are currently being finalised. In the light of these transfers, the Board of NHS Direct has reviewed its future as a viable independent organisation and, in agreement with the NHS Trust Development Authority and NHS England, has arrived at a decision to cease operations at the end of this financial year.’

It continued: ‘No patient services will be affected by the board’s decision, as we expect each of the services that NHS Direct is commissioned to provide beyond March 2014 will be transferred to other organisations, together with the staff who provide them.

‘At its board meeting on Monday 28 October, NHS Direct NHS Trust will launch a formal consultation on the implications for staff of this decision. It is hoped that the number of redundancies arising will be kept to a minimum through transfer and redeployment of staff to other organisations.’

Chair of NHS Direct, Joanne Shaw, said: ‘The closure of NHS Direct marks the end of its 15 years of continuous innovation, during which time it has led the world in remote health assessment, advice and information.

‘I look forward to seeing other organisations take forward a number of the services developed by NHS Direct, and I wish them well as they exploit the ever-growing reach and power of technology, to provide value to patients and the NHS.’

GP revealed how NHS Direct identified concerns about understaffing and call volume forecasts weeks before the troubled roll-out of its 111 services.

Internal documents obtained by GP showed NHS Direct's clinical lead for NHS 111 in the north west of England moved to a new role the day after it went live, leaving it without a full-time top clinical official.

In June NHS Direct said it was expecting financial penalties after a performance report showed it was answering less than a third of its contracted calls and running a £1.5m deficit.

Responding to the announcement in July that it would hand back its 111 contracts, GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the BMA had raised concerns about low bids, but they were ignored. He called for the government to investigate the tendering and procurement process, and for 'proper funding' of the 111 service.

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