NHS Direct pulls out of 111 deal

The troubled NHS 111 telephone service was thrown into turmoil today as one of its main providers, NHS Direct, announced it was seeking to "withdraw from the contracts it entered into".

Latest ITV News reports

Consensus on 111 concept but implementation 'rushed'

by - Deputy Political Editor

There is broad agreement here that the concept of 111 is a good idea: a short number that is easy to remember for non-emergency calls.

In fact, Labour proposed exactly that concept when they were in government.

The implementation, you'd have to say, has been a complete mess. Doctors' groups say it was rushed: we've gone from a national service to one that is locally commissioned.

Despite all that, ministers are still trying to distance themselves from the chaos. Health Minister Lord Howe is trying to pin the blame on NHS Direct for bidding too low:

If that is the case, why did nobody check whether the sums added up? That brings us back to the criticism that the whole thing was rushed.

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Caller: 'I was left for so long my kidneys almost failed'

Dance teacher Thema Davis called 111 in April when she suffered an attack of Gastroparesis, a stomach condition.

But the people she spoke to told her she would have to answer 50 questions before she could see a doctor.

"I was left for so long that I got so dehydrated that my kidneys almost failed," she said.

ITV News science and medical editor Lawrency McGinty has this report:

Labour: Government guilty of 'vandalism' of NHS Direct

Andy Burnham strongly criticised the government's handling of NHS Direct. Credit: PA

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: "This is a mess of ministers' own making. Jeremy Hunt was warned that this would happen but he chose to plough on regardless.

"It's not good enough Jeremy Hunt hiding behind his officials. He must take responsibility and put a plan in place to ensure a safe and sustainable service in all parts of England.

"The destruction of NHS Direct, a trusted, national service, is one of the worst acts of vandalism by this Government. It has been broken up into 46 cut-price contracts. Computers have replaced nurses and too often the computer says 'go to A&E'."

Lib Dem peer praises 'efficient and superb' 111 call

A prominent Liberal Democrat peer has praised the troubled NHS non-emergency telephone service 111 for providing him with "efficient and superb" medical assistance after suffering a heart attack.

Speaking during a private notice question (PNQ) on NHS Direct, Lord Willis of Knaresborough said: "On June 9 I had reason to call 111 because I was having a heart attack.

"The response from 111 was not only excellent in York - not only at the same time did they call the paramedics, but they had me in hospital within 25 minutes to an absolutely superb accident and emergency."

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111 services 'absolutely vital source of information'

The 111 service is an absolutely vital source of information and reassurance to the British public, especially for those who cannot easily get out and about to visit their GPs.

If people don't have confidence in it, or if it's not available in their area, then they will present at A&E instead, putting further strain on already stretched services.

The British Red Cross is calling on the government to ensure more preventative services are in place for everyone in or at risk of a health crisis, and the 111 line is one of them.

– British Red Cross Managing Director Mike Adamson

NHS Direct to pull out of nine 111 contracts

NHS Direct originally won 11 of the 46 contracts to provide the 111 service.

Earlier this month the company announced that it would be unable to provide the service in North Essex and Cornwall.

But now it is also planning to stop providing the service in Somerset, Buckinghamshire, east London and the City, south-east London, Sutton and Merton, West Midlands, Lancashire and Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire.

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