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NHS Direct service 'closed' five days early

A message on the NHS Direct website suggested it had closed five days early. Credit: nhsdirect.nhs.uk

NHS Direct has now closed, according to nhsdirect.nhs.uk, despite the help service being scheduled to cease operation on March 31st.

A message on the NHS Direct website said users could still check symptoms on the NHS choices page.

The closure of the telephone and online health advice provider follows the NHS trust’s announcement it was pulling out of all 11 of its NHS 111 contracts because they were "financially unsustainable."

Over half a million people called NHS 111 service in June

The NHS 111 service introduced to deal with public concern and frustration in accessing NHS care, especially at weekends and out of hours. Credit: NHS

Over half a million people called the NHS 111 service in June, according to figures released by NHS England today.

In June there were 552,717 calls to the service with 94 per cent of people dialling 111 directly.

96 per cent of answered calls made to NHS111 were answered within 60 seconds, with one per cent of calls abandoned after waiting more than 30 seconds.

Read: 111 service in turmoil as key provider NHS Direct pulls out

Read: NHS 111 call handlers 'not properly trained' for role

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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.

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'."

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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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