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BLOG: Ignore the negative NHS 111 coverage


14 June 2013

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The overwhelmingly negative news media coverage that followed the launch of the new NHS 111 helpline last April Bank Holiday should not be regarded as indicative of an entire service in crisis.

The overwhelmingly negative news media coverage that followed the launch of the new NHS 111 helpline last April Bank Holiday should not be regarded as indicative of an entire service in crisis.
On the contrary, Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, who commissioned NHS Direct to deliver their 111 service, has been providing an effective service since its launch in mid February 2013. True, the service did initially experience heavy demand in its first two weeks and over the first April Bank Holiday of the 3153 calls received over the 4 day period 92 callers hung up or abandoned the call before it was answered.
However, three months on and over 18,000 calls later the Somerset 111 service is responding to 99% of calls within 60 second target and the service has not experienced the accusations of inappropriate 999 ambulance calls, or disaffected patients abandoning the 111 line to take themselves off to their nearest district hospital Accident and Emergency Department.
Of course there can be little consolation in knowing that the 111 service is working well in Somerset when patients and the public regard the new 111 number as a national service or continue to see politicians and health professionals quoted in the press acknowledging the service had initially failed. 
Regrettably even within the South West region, the launch of the 111 service in Devon has been postponed until September 3013 and Cornwall has yet to announce a launch date for their 111 service. 
The planned roll out of NHS 111 all looks a mess and despite a widespread consensus that an easy to remember national health helpline number was long overdue, most health service commissioners are coming to terms with the fact that it’s going to take some time to build public confidence in the new 111 service.
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