NHS 111 service found ‘inadequate’

Failure to run the NHS 111 service adequately has led to South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust receiving a warning from the CQC 
111 telephone service

An NHS 111 service has been classed as ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), as calls were not being answered by suitable staff.

The CQC raised specific concerns during an inspection of the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust over the lack of staff available to take calls and give clinical advice.

There were also issues with too many patients waiting too long for their calls to be answered or receive a call back. This meant that urgent cases were at risk of not being given priority, the trust was warned.

NHS 111 took over the role of NHS Direct when it closed in 2014, replacing many of the nursing staff who had been able to offer clinical advice, with non-clinical staff.

Staffing problems

Problems with this change had been recognised by NHS England said Anna Crossley, RCN professional lead for acute, emergency and critical care.

‘Nursing expertise was removed in the move to NHS 111 and replaced with cheaper staff with little or no health experience,' said Ms Crossley. 'A script and a computer programme simply can’t replace the advice of a skilled, experienced nurse, who can spot signs of serious conditions and ensure that the urgent help is given when it is needed.’

The RCN is committed to supporting the service, she added.

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Ken Wenman said: 'We are never complacent on patient safety. Could we do better? Of course we could. Will we learn from this inspection? Of course we will.'