NHS 111 targets missed as new providers come under pressure

The NHS 111 phone line is under fire for missing targets

The NHS 111 phone line is under fire for missing targets - Credit: Archant © 2013

Critics today hit out at providers of the non-emergency NHS 111 advice number after it emerged two of three key targets are being missed in the region.


Integrated Care 24 (IC24) has come under fire after figures showed not enough callbacks are made by clinicians to the public, and too many calls are not answered within a minute.

The company, which describes itself as a 'not-for-profit social enterprise', said it was committed to providing a robust service to patients.

But concerns have also been raised about the company's out-of-hours service after a report was leaked from Norwich Clinical Commissioning Group to the BBC.

The report said commissioners were 'not clinically assured of the safety of the out-of-hours service' and only 'partially assured' of the 111 service.

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Norfolk's NHS 111 service, as well as the out-of-hours primary care service, used to be operated by East of England Ambulance Service Trust but the county's clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) last year decided to hand its five-year contract to IC24 following a tender process.

According to figures published by NHS England, IC24 is missing two of three key targets in Norfolk, with many more patients waiting longer than ten minutes for a callback from a clinician, than when the service was provided by the ambulance trust.

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Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk and Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said: 'Targets are good indicators of performance and the fact that these are being missed backs up some of the concerns in the report.'

His concerns were echoed by Healthwatch Norfolk chairman Alex Stewart, who said the problems facing the 111 service should be fixed urgently.

IC24 already provided 111 and out- of-hours services to patients in Great Yarmouth and Waveney, Suffolk, and parts of Cambridgeshire.

The CCGs' decision to give the Norfolk contract to IC24 angered unions, but the company began operating in the county last September.

IC24 said during the first three months calls answered within 60 seconds averaged 91pc.

'This is a good start for any new contract,' a spokesperson said. 'However, the abandoned rate was only 0.96% thus meaning that 99.04% of patients were answered without abandoning the call and received a normal NHS 111 assessment.'

The spokesperson added: 'With regard to the clinicians call backs within 10 minutes, this can only be assessed in conjunction with the warm transfer rate as if you warm transfer a higher number of calls to a clinician there are less calls to 'call back'. Our warm transfer rates for Norfolk and Wisbech are higher than the national average which is a good thing for patients. It means that they are transferred directly to a clinician.

'We have a robust recruitment process with full training programs throughout January, we have invested in a recruitment service to assist us. We have also put in extra support for all our trained graduates.

'We are committed to providing a robust service to our patients and stand by the statement provided.'

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