Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

New 111 Number Is to Create 140 Jobs; Launch of Non-Emergency Service for Medical Calls after Pounds 45m Contract

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

New 111 Number Is to Create 140 Jobs; Launch of Non-Emergency Service for Medical Calls after Pounds 45m Contract

Article excerpt

Byline: Katie Davies

ANEW service to handle non-emergency medical calls will create 140 jobs for the region after North East Ambulance Service secured a pounds 45m contract.

The scheme, which will see the medical helpline NHS Direct scrapped, will be rolled out across the North East, thanks to the new five-year deal.

However, the news comes as the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) announced the loss of 300 registered nurses and healthcare assistants at NHS Direct.

The organisation also raised concerns about the quality of advice patients will receive as a result of the new service, as they believe fewer nursing staff will be employed under the 111 scheme, which is in partnership with Northern Doctors Urgent Care (NDUC).

Since August last year people living in County Durham and Darlington, who have an illness or injury that is less urgent than 999, have been able to call 111 to access healthcare services that meet their needs.

Now, because of the new contract and the success of the pilot scheme in County Durham and Darlington, the 111 service will be rolled out across the rest of the North East by April 2013.

It is expected the new service will create 100 jobs within the North East Ambulance Service and 40 in the NDUC.

The new 111 number, which it is hoped will ease pressure on 999, aims to provide health advice and information about out-of-hours GPs, walk-in centres, emergency dentists and 24-hour chemists. It replaces NHS Direct, which previously provided expert health advice, out-of-hours support for GPs and dental services, and telephone support for patients with long-term conditions. But the RCN say patients will receive a stripped-back service from NHS 111, and believe more patients will be advised to call 999 or go to accident and emergency, which is more costly.

RCN chief executive and general secretary Dr Peter Carter said: "What we are seeing here is a clear example of quality being compromised in a bid to make short-term savings. NHS Direct has developed over recent years into a service that many patients really value.

"Our fear is that patients, who can often be extremely worried or distressed, will receive a stripped-back service from NHS 111, with more being advised to dial 999 or got to A&E, which is far more costly. …

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