NHS Direct is losing £1.5m a month and is likely to exit the NHS 111 market by the end of the year. The director charged with leading its 111 work has resigned following disciplinary action being initiated, HSJ understands.

The NHS trust’s most recent board papers reveal it has overspent on staff for its 111 contracts despite only delivering 30 per cent of contracted call volumes.

A revised budget for 2013-14 is expected to be submitted to the NHS Direct board for approval on 1 July, following discussions with the NHS Trust Development Authority and commissioners.

It is widely expected this will set out plans for a managed exit from its nine NHS 111 contracts over the remainder of the year, most likely involving the transfer of contracts to ambulance trusts.

NHS Direct won nine contracts to provide NHS 111 in about a third of the country including the West Midlands, North West, South East London, East London and the City, Buckinghamshire, North Essex, Somerset and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

The organisation’s board − both executives and non-executives − was split into two sub-committees last year. One focused on bidding for and delivering NHS 111 contracts and the other was responsible for winding down its existing 0845 NHS Direct service.

The then finance director Trevor Smith was made managing director of “Future NHS Direct” − focusing on 111 − while chief executive Nick Chapman remained responsible for the 0845 service.

HSJ has learned that Mr Smith resigned earlier this month. Sources told HSJ his resignation followed the beginning of disciplinary action against him by NHS Direct.

HSJ understands a report into the rollout of NHS 111 by Deloitte was critical of “Future NHS Direct” management for failing to heed warnings from colleagues who said the service was not ready to go live.

NHS Direct confirmed Mr Smith had resigned on 4 June but would not comment on disciplinary proceedings.

A spokeswoman for NHS Direct said discussions were ongoing with commissioners and NHS England “about the services we are providing”.

She said external auditors had approved its governance arrangements and the two sub-committees reported to every board meeting, “where progress was reviewed and interdependencies were addressed”.

HSJ made efforts to contact Mr Smith but he had not been reached for comment at the time of publication.

Exclusive: Senior NHS Direct leaders warned 111 was unsafe but were overruled