Patients have been harmed by NHS 111, NHS England’s director of patient safety Mike Durkin has said.

Speaking at Patient Safety Congress in Birmingham yesterday, Dr Durkin was asked whether he thought patients had been harmed as a result of the failure of 111.

He said: “Yes I do… We are getting active reports [to the National Reporting and Learning Service] from GPs, hospitals and significantly from ambulance services.

“We will find out as we go through the individual root cause analyses whether or not there was anyone culpable.”

The National Reporting and Learning Service collects confidential reports of patient safety incidents that occured in NHS funded care in England and Wales. It transferred to NHS England when the National Patient Safety Agency was abolished.

NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh was also asked about NHS 111 by conference chair Phil Hammond, a GP and Private Eye journalist.

Sir Bruce said he had not had involvement in the roll out of the service in his previous role as medical director at the Department of Health.

“There is no logic to this but urgent and emergency care sat in another part of the forest of the DH. The desire to introduce 111 was a political decision,” he added.

He said former national director for productivity and efficiency Sir John Oldham and national director for urgent and emergency care Matthew Cooke had worked on the development of NHS 111.

Sir Bruce added: “NHS 111 was designed to err on the side of safety. Frankly the problem came with the implementation of 111. There are 12 different providers with 46 different contracts and many of those providers have not done what was in the contract, they haven’t had enough call handlers, they haven’t fulfilled their obligations.”