Cost to Bolton doubles after collapse of non-emergency NHS phoneline
AMBULANCE call-handlers will take on out-of-hours calls following the collapse of the non-emergency NHS phoneline — for double the cost to Bolton.
The North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) has taken over the NHS 111 service from NHS Direct, which says it can no longer deliver the contract.
NHS 111 was introduced in March to make it easier for patients to access local NHS healthcare services.
A new call centre at the Middlebrook Retail Park was set up to take all calls to NHS 111 in the North West, replacing several local offices.
But when NHS Direct, which was contracted to run the service, went live in March, IT problems caused chaos, leaving more than 100 patients unable to access the service.
The out-of-hours service for Bolton is now run by Bardoc a not-for-profit organisation, but Bolton’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) still has to pay some of the costs for the 111 service.
NWAS clinicians now handle 111 calls, but for more than double the cost for the Bolton NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
For the six months between April and October, the NHS Direct contract cost the CCG £20,000 a month. But for four months between November and March, NWAS has charged £168,000 — £42,000 a month.
The jump is believed to be down to clinicians handling calls at NWAS rather than at NHS Direct administrative staff.
An NWAS spokesman said: “It is expected the service will be retendered in 2015. The Trust handles all direct dialled 111 calls arising in Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire as well as GP out-of-hours calls arising from GP surgeries in East Lancashire, Blackburn with Darwen, Warrington and Salford.”
Bolton CCG said all patients who want to access out-of-hours services should first contact their GP practice.
Dr Barry Silvert, CCG clinical director of integrated commissioning, said: “People tell us they don’t always know where to go for help in Bolton when they are feeling poorly — there are too many choices.
“For everyday minor illnesses and advice on symptoms such as sore throats, coughs and colds, the best place to get advice is from local pharmacies.
“Contact your GP practice for advice for illnesses or injuries that won’t go away or are getting worse.
“If you need a GP when your GP is closed, still ring your practice and their answer machine message will give you the number to ring to speak to the out-of-hours service.”
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