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NHS 111 - is this service working?

View profile for Lisa Whitworth
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NHS 111 has faced a lot of criticism since it replaced NHS Direct, a nurse led advice service, in 2013. There is concern that medically qualified call handlers have been replaced by call handlers who receive only basic medical training and are expected to be able to extract sufficient information to ensure a patient is placed on the correct “NHS Pathway” so that a computer system can determine the appropriate advice to provide them over the telephone. This advice could include making an appointment to see your own GP within a certain number of days. However, it would appear that this advice is reliant on a computer programme receiving the correct information.

Call handlers are expected to follow a script which can be restrictive if a patient is experiencing unusual or a variety of symptoms. What if other essential questions, not provided for by the computer generated script, would be of benefit to assist with triaging a patient appropriately? Call handlers are supposed to have access to a clinically trained person, who due to the high volume of calls made to NHS 111, may not be available straightaway. This could cause significant delays in providing urgent treatment advice. This could impact on patients who may be suffering from a life threatening conditions such as a stroke, heart attacks or cardiac arrests.

As a Clinical Negligence solicitor I have been involved in cases where incorrect or delayed medical advice has had a significant impact on a patient’s condition and prognosis.  A lot of people place reliance on NHS 111, especially out of hours, because Accident and Emergency Departments and Walk in Centres are portrayed as being over stretched and under-staffed. Patients trust the advice they are given by NHS 111 which can, if incorrect, cause a delay in them receiving appropriate medical treatment which may in itself cause a significant avoidable health problem.

Our team of leading medical negligence solicitors act in relation to an ongoing claim against NHS 111 where an individual suffered a fatal cardiac arrest because a Call handler decided, incorrectly, to ignore set pathways and refused to send an ambulance.  If you or someone you know has concerns about the care provided by NHS 111 contact us and speak directly to our leading medical negligence lawyers. 

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