The government needs to review many unresolved issues around NHS 111 before rushing through a national rollout, writes Ron McDaniel

Stop and think about NHS 111

Following your recent article, ‘NHS 111 “unlikely to lead to emergency care savings”’, the report from the University of Sheffield into the outcomes of the NHS 111 pilot schemes has given fresh cause for concern at the rush to implement the service across England.

‘There are important questions and concerns about NHS 111 that remain unanswered and unresolved’

The primary objectives of NHS 111 are to make cost savings and reduce the pressure on urgent care services and the emergency care system such as ambulances. The findings of the University of Sheffield report suggest that neither of these core aims has been achieved during the pilot schemes. Indeed, the pressure on the ambulance service has significantly increased and the worryingly high volume of patients referred to out of hours throughout the pilots indicates this pressure could be even larger when out of hours is supposedly absorbed by 111.

Following the report’s findings, I must question the rationale in continuing to rush the rollout of this service in 2013. The report raises some important questions and concerns about NHS 111 that remain unanswered and unresolved. Surely those must be addressed before implementation commences at a national level? If not, patient safety is potentially put at risk due to the heightened pressure on the already stretched ambulance services country-wide.

I strongly urge the government to carry out a fresh review of the service and give time to better assess and address the statistical evidence and data in the report, alongside consultation with trained clinicians, before considering further implementation.

Ron McDaniel, senior vice president at Priority Dispatch, an ambulance dispatch software provider