Surge in abandoned 111 calls

The extent of the new NHS non-emergency advice line's problems have been highlighted by a rise in abandoned calls. The number of people who hung up after waiting for more than 30 seconds increased to 29,100 in March, according to NHS figures.

Latest ITV News reports

A&E doctor: 111 generates 'good deal of dissatisfaction'

A&E Consultant Dr Steve McCabe told ITV News, "The introduction of 111 has generated a good deal of dissatisfaction, particularly in emergency departments and amongst paramedics".

"The dissatisfaction comes from what we see as inappropriate use of ambulance services, for example, to bring patients to emergency departments with relatively minor illness or minor injury", he continued.

A&E Consultant Dr Steve McCabe.
A&E Consultant Dr Steve McCabe. Credit: ITV News

"The [A&E] service is already under enormous pressure, particularly from the elderly population, so any increase in demand for our service puts more pressure on our ability to deal with the very sick and the badly injured".

Dr McCabe claimed it was a "widely-held opinion amongst emergency medics and doctors - both at national level and at local level - that 111 is increasing attendances [at A&E] unnecessarily".

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Minister: NHS 111 'working well in some areas'

Public Health Minister Anna Soubry told ITV News, "We know we have had a problem with 111 in some areas. In some areas it's working well, in some areas not so well".

Public Health Minister Anna Soubry.
Public Health Minister Anna Soubry. Credit: ITV News

The Conservative MP said, "We need to learn from that and we need to make sure that we have a proper service so we know people are getting good advice so they know where to go to to get the best treatment, to get the best remedy, but without putting pressure on A&E that it doesn't need to have"

Ms Soubry said over a million more people going to A&E departments every year, which is causing "a lot of difficulties".

NHS 111 service pushing 'A&E to breaking point'

ITV News has uncovered claims that the NHS non-emergency 111 helpline - which was meant to help ease the burden on A&E departments in England - is instead pushing some "to breaking point".

Medical staff on the frontline claim there has been a big jump in the number of 999 callouts and a sharp rise in patients arriving in A&E departments - most of which are not urgent. They tell us this is because:

  • Inexperienced 111 call centre staff are being too cautious and referring them to 999
  • The computerised system of the list of questions callers are asked often leads to the conclusion of "call an ambulance"
  • Callers often get tired of waiting for a call back from staff at the non-emergency helpline, or after a bad experience they end up taking themselves to A&E

NHS England says the service is working fine in most areas.

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