An undercover investigation claims to have found worrying failings at a centre in Bristol that handles non emergency calls for the NHS 111 service.
The Channel 4 'Dispatches' programme said staff don't have the right equipment or training.
The company that operates the call centre denies all the allegations.
Katie Rowlett reports:
Competitive tendering is creating a race to the bottom. The NHS needs to be reintegrated not further fragmented into multiple tendered contracts.
It would be idiotic to continue having separate contracts for the handling of ambulance, urgent care and out-of-hours GP services, whilst hospital emergency departments continue to struggle.
The NHS has been divvied up into business units under successive Governments. This has spawned a culture more concerned with 'working to contract' than working in the patient's best interests.
But it doesn't have to be like this. We should be pulling services back together rather than grinding on with this failed dogma."
The Liberal Democrat MP for West Cornwall Andrew George has written to the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP to urge him not simply to re-tender contracts for NHS 111 services.
Mr George is a member of the Commons' Health Select Committee.
You can read the company's full statement here.
NHS Undercover: Channel 4’s Dispatches programme claims that the NHS 111 service, including services provided by Harmoni from centres in Bristol and Dorking, leave patients waiting for calls and is understaffed.
But the programme doesn’t show a representative picture of how the NHS 111 service actually works or how it is performing, how quickly it responds to patients with a diverse range of needs or how it affects other urgent health care services.
Remember that the NHS 111 service is not an emergency service and doesn’t replace the 999 service.
Harmoni has given Channel 4 and Dispatches a detailed response to the concerns the programme broadcast, many of which were based on third hand comments and anecdotes, gathered over only a handful of days, without checking how the service was actually performing."
The Channel 4 documentary revealed significant shortfalls in performance of the NHS 111 service for the Wiltshire area following the launch of the service earlier this year.
The programme showed evidence of poor staffing levels, poor training, and non-medical staff making judgement calls in the absence of clinical advisors.
The poor standards of service which have been delivered to patients needing non-emergency care across the Wiltshire region are wholly unacceptable.
NHS Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) have assured me that work is ongoing with Harmoni to address the areas which remain below standard. I have asked them for the specific actions they are implementing to resolve the problems and the expected dates for improvement.
Given the new commissioning arrangements that put GPs and patients at the heart of service decisions, we have an opportunity to sort out this service and make it robust for the future."
A call centre in Bristol, designed to handle non emergency NHS calls is failing patients, according to an undercover investigation.
Channel 4's Dispatches programme claim the 111 service, run by private healthcare company Harmoni, is sending out ambulances for the wrong reasons and not providing sufficient equipment or training for staff.
On Monday, NHS Direct pulled out of its main contracts of the 111 service, including one in Somerset.
Harmoni said their services are reviewed weekly to ensure safety.
The Conservative MP for Bristol North West Charlotte Leslie is a member of the Commons' Health Select Committee:
NHS Direct, which manages a third of England’s NHS 111 helpline services, has announced that it is to withdraw from its 111 contracts.
It will not affect the delivery of the 111 service in Somerset but it does means Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will have to find another provider.
I would like to reassure the people of Somerset that despite NHS Direct announcing that contractual difficulties have forced it to withdraw from providing the 111 service to Somerset, the service is continuing to operate as normally.
As an interim measure, we are holding talks with the South Western Ambulance Services NHS Foundation Trust with a view to ensuring the 111 service in Somerset continues to deliver a safe and prompt service.
In the coming months Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group will be preparing to go out to tender again to secure a new provider of its 111 service.
NHS England deputy chief executive Dame Barbara Hakin told ITV News NHS 111 is a "great concept" and blamed providers, including NHS Direct, for failing to deliver a quality service:
Dr Malcolm Kendrick told ITV News the111 service is "ridiculous" and says the NHS was "warned and warned" it wasn't going to work: