STRUCTURE: The first go live date for NHS 111 has been delayed due to a lack of local GP engagement and outstanding contractual issues with the provider, HSJ has learned.

The non-emergency telephone number has been piloted in County Durham and Darlington since 2010 and was due to go live there and in neighbouring South of Tyne and Wear primary care trust cluster area on 4 September.

However, this has now been put back until 11 December.

A spokeswoman for lead commissioners County Durham and Darlington said the delay would allow “more time to finalise contracts with providers, ensure clinicians are properly engaged at a local level and thoroughly test the service with experts from the Department of Health”.

HSJ understands more engagement work will be done with GPs in the Gateshead, Sunderland and South of Tyne areas.

The service is being provided across the whole North East region by a partnership between North East Ambulance Service Foundation Trust and out-of-hours provider Northern Doctors Urgent Care Ltd.

HSJ understands disagreement over the transfer of staff from NHS Direct is still delaying finalisation of the contract as the provider does not want to take on liability for the length of service of affected staff.

A DH spokeswoman said: “Decisions about NHS 111 staffing are being taken at a local level.  

“However, the department expects new providers to take Cabinet Office guidelines into account to ensure staff with appropriate skills and experience can be transferred from NHS Direct to the new provider.”