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Farron raises alarm over delays at NHS direct call centre

March 26, 2013 10:40 AM

Tim and the Lib Dems at WGHFollowing a chaotic 'soft launch' of the new NHS Direct call centre last Thursday, South Lakes MP Tim Farron has raised his concerns and insisted that 'these mistakes must be corrected' before the official launch of the new call centre in April.

The new call centre in Middlebrook, Boltonis being prepared to take over the control of NHS 111 service for the whole of Lancashire and South Cumbria in April. At midnight on Wednesday 20th March several local Primary Care Trust-run call centres were shut down and calls transferred to the new call centre in Bolton as part of this 'soft launch'.

However the 'soft launch' of this out of hours service did not go to plan and the switched caused long delays with some patients reporting that they were left waiting for responses for hours, while other took themselves off to hospital instead.

Tim has previously raised concerns about plans to move the out of hours to a centralised centre for the whole of Lancashire and South Cumbria for fear of losing essential local knowledge of the area as well as the decision not to ensure trained medical professionals are handling calls, instead moving to a 'tick list' system. Tim has warned that the new system will lengthen call times for patients and can lead to misdiagnosis as call handlers work through a series of tick-list scenarios, rather than using experience and medical knowledge to give advice on medical problems.

In light of the failures in the initial launch last week, Tim is calling on officials at the Department for Health and the NHS 111 service to ensure the mistakes are corrected in time for the full switchover in April and to commit to providing trained medical professionals to deal with phone calls.

Commenting Tim said: "Out-of-hours services are so important and it is absolutely essential that trained professionals are easy to access to ensure that patients are able to effectively deal with their health concerns. This soft launch has been a disaster and resulted in some patients taking themselves to their nearest A&E which completely negates the point of the NHS 111 service.

"These mistakes must be corrected and the problems of using this tick-list system rather than relying on proper trained medical professionals will not go away unless this is fixed. I want the people in charge to provide assurances to the public that they will learn from the mistakes of last week and that they will deliver the highest quality out-of-hours service when the full switchover happen in April."