by Stephen Tall on August 28, 2010
The BBC reports:
The government has confirmed it is planning to scrap the NHS Direct telephone service in England and replace it with a cheaper option. A new 111 helpline is already being piloted in the North East. It was previously reported that the new service may replace NHS Direct, but now the Department of Health has confirmed it will definitely do so. The move comes as the government curtails public spending, even though it has promised to protect the NHS.
NHS Direct is currently used by 27,000 people a day, and provides expert health advice and information to callers, as well as out-of-hours support for GPs and dental services, telephone support for patients with long-term conditions, and pre- and post-operative support for patients. 111 – which provides health advice and information about out-of-hours GPs, walk-in centres, emergency dentists and 24-hour chemist – will offers many of the services, but not all.
My Voice colleague, Sara Bedford, writing on her own blog, is supportive of the move, noting that with 111:
Some of the nurses would be replaced by operators who have the same emergency diagnostic training as that given to 999 operators. That’s right: the person answering your non-emergency call will be as well trained as the person answering your emergency call. Seems like a pretty good deal to me.
She goes on to note that doctors themselves are far from satisfied with the value that NHS Direct is delivering:
Earlier this year, well before the election, a survey of 900 GPs by the magazine Pulse found that a majority thought that NHS Direct should have its funding cut. In June, representatives of family doctors said that the new government should consider scrapping NHS Direct as a way of reducing costs in the health service.
But there’s no doubt that this is a controversial move, and one which Labour is already attacking head-on with shadow health secretary Andy Burnham citing it as evidence that the Coalition is on “a vindictive mission to break up the NHS”.
What do Voice readers think? Here’s the question:
But feel free to express your more considered working in the comments below…