NHS 111- warnings over seriously flawed health cover
Patients have already lost confidence in the 111 non-emergency number because it is providing a “seriously flawed” service in some parts of the country, one of Britain’s most senior doctors has warned.Dr Clare Gerada, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, attacked the Government for putting patients at risk by introducing a completely new system on a bank holiday amid the largest reorganisation of the NHS in its history.
She said the service had been only saved from “total collapse” because GPs had shored up the system in parts of the country where it had failed.
Doctors say lives have been put at risk, with desperately-ill patients left waiting hours for help while ambulances have been dispatched to trivial cases.
Dr Gerarda said patients across the country had been left not knowing where to turn for help because the rollout of the phonelines had been “significantly problematic”.
Last weekend it emerged that 22 serious incidents are being investigated in connection with the line, including three deaths.
Further cases to emerge include that of a grieving widow who spent the last hours of her husband’s life on the phone to a call centre walker, begging for pain relief and a man who died of a heart attack last week after 111 staff did not recognise the urgency of his symptoms.
Dr Gerada said: “We now have a situation where patients have lost confidence in the new NHS 111 service before it is even fully up and running. The responsibility for this lies at the door of the Government and it is unacceptable to carry on blaming GPs for what is going wrong with the system.”
The warning came as a senior hospital leader accused the Coalition of causing disorder and overcrowding in Accident & Emergency (A&E) departments, because too many senior staff had been diverted from their work to bring in structural reforms.
Chris Hopson of the Foundation Trust Network said that recent problems are the “chickens coming home to roost” after ministers ordered changes which saw 150 NHS organisations abolished and replaced by 212 groups of GPs last month.
In recent days there have been growing warnings that A&E units have become unable to cope, with senior figures warning that emergency care is now “out of control” across swathes of the country.
Mr Hopson told Health Service Journal that part of the problem was that NHS managers have had to spend too much time bringing in new structures.
He said: “We all know everybody’s attention has been diverted to planning the [changes to] organisations, while the front line has been trying to pull the system together with duct tape, and generally doing a good job.
Mr Hopson said that NHS management bodies and regulators had not co-ordinated their efforts. He said: “From the outside this looks like an omnishambles.”
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