Monthly Archives: July 2013

NHS Scores ‘Own Goal’ with 111 Service

111 telephone helpline provider gives up

Only a Government Minister could think that reducing the fee for a contracted NHS Service would make the service work better  – but politicians don’t live in the real world.

For years we had NHS Direct.  After a rocky start, it was starting to work well.  Patients were learning to trust it, and it was working efficiently.  But this wasn’t good enough for the bean counters.  They decided they could reduce the price paid per incoming call – from around £20 per call, to £8 – £9.  So to save money call centre staff changed;  instead of nurses we got unqualified people (some were teenagers) and ended up with the dog’s dinner that was the new 111 telephone service;

Naturally, the great British public found it didn’t work, . Sensibly, they followed what happens in poor countries.  They went to their local hospitals’ A & E Dept., fuelling the massive increase in patients handled by these emergency departments.

Progress?                                                                                                                                     Only a Minister could delude themselves this would be so. One major 111 call centre provider has just declared they are pulling out, having lost over £26 million (wonder who is going to make up the shortfall?)

Now we come to doctors.  Dare I suggest that this debacle might be their fault?  With their ‘new’ contracts, they have given up out-of-hours working and weekend cover.  They expect golf courses and restaurants to be open at these times, but heaven forbid they should provide the same service – even though they are paid a very handsome sum.

I worked in the tourism industry; we earned high salaries, but for this we knew tourists expected hotels, airlines, trains, restaurants etc. to operate up to 24 hours a day – whenever there was a need, which meant we would have to work ‘unsociable’ hours.  Tourists fall ill, or lose belongings, 24 hours a day.  When they needed help, we were expected to provide this;  no questions asked.  But the job was fun;  we were dedicated this, so got on with it.  When the current crop of doctors went into medicine, surely they underwent the long hours of training because they liked ‘dealing’ with people, and understood they would have to work when required?

So is it too simple to suggest that doctors’ practices guarantees to offer cover a percentage of ‘unsociable’ hours (in return for their vast salary?  Some practices have over 20 doctors as part of a team, so surely providing telephone answering one night out of every 10 or 20 or so, so YOUR doctor decides if you need an Ambulance, or can just take an aspirin, might be a solution?  Or is this too patient-friendly?

On yer bike                                                                                                                                   Mr. Hunt, Dame Barbara or even David Nicholson – DO something before the NHS loses even more money.  Justify the vast salaries you are paid.  Otherwise sane patients (the majority of us, Mr. Hunt) will continue to by-pass 111 and go direct to A & E.   According to Lord Howe at the Dept. Health, the service is running well – but perhaps they should listen to Andy Burnham, Labour’s ex-Health Minister.  As he points out, “you get what you pay for”.

Andy Burnham at Liverpool Biennial 2008 Openin...

Andy Burnham  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)