NHS Direct helpline- Government confirms plan to scrap website
The government has confirmed it is planning to scrap the NHS Direct telephone service in England and replace it with an alternative service.
Nick Chapman, chief executive of NHS Direct: “The new helpline will be better and more cost effective than NHS Direct” A new 1-1-1 helpline is already being piloted in north-east England.
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.
The change will not affect existing NHS helpline services in Scotland and Wales.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley announced the plan to scrap NHS Direct in England during a hospital visit.
NHS Direct currently employs more than 3,000 staff, 40% of whom are trained nurses. It is understood the ratio on the 1-1-1 helpline is “slightly less” in the pilot, but no figures are yet available for what will happen when the scheme is rolled out nationally.
Critics claim the change would undermine the quality of the service by reducing the number of qualified nurses answering calls, but chief executive of NHS Direct Nick Chapman told the BBC the new helpline would be better and more cost effective than NHS Direct.
In June GPs urged the government to get rid of NHS Direct, claiming it was not cost effective.
Roughly 14,000 people a day call NHS Direct for medical advice, with the service costing £123m a year to run.
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of The Royal College of Nursing , said reducing the number of specialist nurses who worked on the new helpline was “short-sighted.”
He said: “We urge the government to consult fully and look at all the evidence before enacting changes which could leave people without expert advice from trained nurses.”
Tags: Andrew Lansley, GPs, IT disaster, Labour waste, nhs cash shortages, NHS Choices, NHS Direct