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14-06-2012 | General practice | Article

NHS 111 roll-out on hold

Abstract

Department of Health - NHS 111 deadline extension

MedWire News: The controversial NHS 111 roll-out is to be slowed down, after concerns that some CCGs will struggle to hit the original April 2013 deadline.

The Department of Health says that after "careful consideration" it has decided to extend the deadline to October 2013, giving areas an extra 6 months to introduce the helpline.

Many groups, including the BMA and the Royal College of Nursing, had been lobbying for a delay in implementing the new urgent care number, concerned that it was being pushed through without taking on board issues raised by pilot schemes (click here).

Companies such as Serco, Capita and Care UK had also pulled out of bidding for the service, saying the plans had not been thought through properly.

The BMA welcomed the announcement. GPs Committee Chair Dr Laurence Buckman said: "The principle behind NHS 111 - making patient access to urgent NHS service easier - is a good one. Unfortunately the speed of the rollout was putting this at risk. Hopefully now there will be sufficient time to ensure local clinicians are properly involved services can be designed that will be safe, reliable and genuinely benefit patients."

The DoH said extension to the deadline would be granted by application to an expert panel - and that it would not delay roll-out in areas "ready to move ahead".

The NHS Alliance has been calling for CCG leaders to have greater control over implementing local urgent care services (see report) and is urging them to learn from the pilots. Chief executive of the Alliance Rick Stern said: "This extension acknowledges the importance of local decision-making, in response to requests from local CCG leaders."

The Alliance is due to report in September on an integrated urgent care system it is working on with CCGs in East Kent and the North West, to include ways to implement NHS 111.

MedWire News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Caroline Price