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NHS 111 health line launched in Devon after county-wide criticism

Posted in: Medical Negligence 

After being delayed since the 1st of April, an NHS non-emergency 111-telephone number has been launched in Devon. While 999 remains as the UK’s primary emergency number, 111 has been introduced to replace NHS Direct, providing free advice to people with urgent, but not life-threatening, symptoms. 

The NHS 111 helpline has been continuously criticised since its introduction in April for providing poor advice and leaving many calls unanswered. The national initiative has created serious problems throughout the UK with the failure of home computer systems, calls going unanswered and inappropriate referrals being made. This has resulted in an increased strain on hospital’s A&E departments and ambulance services. Due to these issues, the NHS in Devon decided to postpone the roll-out until now.

Service commissioners said they wanted to “learn from the issues in other parts of the country to get things right for patients in Devon”.

The health line was launched at 11:00 on Tuesday and is being run by the South Western Ambulance Service Foundation Trust. A call centre in Exeter is handling the phone calls – operating 24/7 – that are answered by trained call handlers with clinicians available for support. Until now, Dorset has been operating the Devon phone line, with the national target of answering 95% of calls in 60 seconds being maintained throughout the last month. The trust said that they would bring their experience and expertise from the Dorset to the Devon service.

The NHS Direct phone line that remains in Devon is due to be switched off during the next few weeks; calls to GP out-of-hours service will be gradually transferred to the 111 call centre over the next few months.

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