111: Government Refusal to Heed Warnings From 2013

Health Secretary was warned by GP’s about 111 being a recipe for disaster say Campaigners.


In December 2013 Save Our NHS Hull and East Yorkshire activists, along with County Councillor Keith Moore and Goole Councillor Brent Huntingdon attended a meeting of East Riding Clinical Commissioning Group which was held in public at offices of the NHS in Willerby.

We were shocked at just how worried GPs really were by the coalition’s plan to axe the popular and trusted NHS Direct Service and replace it with a less rigorous system.

Here are the quotes directly from the meeting. We chose not to name individual speakers as we felt it wouldn’t be fair.

Next item on the agenda was NHS 111, which is to replace NHS Direct in March. It is being piloted for TWO WEEKS ONLY before going live on 19th March. One GP said; “There will be a lot of risk to the public due to the tight schedule and lack of information”.

The idea is that the call centre emails out of hours GP service with the information about the caller. There is no compulsion on them to call back. In addition it was asked how many out of hours centres had “live” email updates. Then there is the problem that different surgeries and centres are on different IT packages.

The next GP speaker talked of, “chaos in the system. The lead person said that the workforce was ½ what NHS Direct employs. Call centre operatives, and not clinicians will decide priorities. Will they know what questions to ask eg regarding chest pain, strokes or childhood meningitis? Will risk averseness take over meaning more, not less ambulances are dispatched?

A GP then stated, “Some GP’s just won’t engage because it’s been forced on us”.

The final GP speaker said, “There is a whole heap of risk with this 111 system. It’s scary and a recipe for disaster”.

In September William Meade, aged just one year old, died and the subsequent inquiry highlighted serious issues with the 111 service.

This from today’s Guardian newspaper.

“Four opportunities to save the life of William Mead were missed when local doctors and the 111 non-emergency helpline failed to diagnose pneumonia and the common but lethal infection sepsis, an NHS report into the case has found.

“William’s mother, Melissa Mead, said she had initially been reassured by advice she received over the phone.“When I dialled 111 … I was just reassured that what I was doing was the right thing, and at the time I didn’t think any different because I expected that what I was getting was a grade one service when with hindsight that wasn’t what we were getting.”

“We were told that William’s condition was non-urgent, we didn’t require any emergency treatment and we would have a six-hour callback from an out-of-hours doctor.” She added: “By the time the doctor had called back, William’s fate was sealed because [he] didn’t tell us we should go into hospital. He just reassured us that being in bed was the best place for him.”

We call on our elected representatives to demand transparency from the Secretary of State regarding 111 and to ensure everyone has immediate access to fully funded GP or emergency services as and when they are needed. A full review is needed and GPs, medical professionals and residents must be allowed to speak up without fear or favour.

Mrs. Meade is eloquent, confident and can stand up for herself. How many cases are being missed where residents don’t have such attributes?



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