Ambulance services would take over the running of the non-emergency 111 telephone service under a Labour government, Andy Burnham has revealed.
Unveiling the party’s 10 year plan for the NHS at the King’s Fund yesterday, the shadow health secretary said ambulance services would become an “integrated provider of emergency and out of hours care”.
“As NHS 111 contracts expire, we will look at ambulance services taking them on, so that in time they can handle all 111 and 999 calls from the same call centres,” Mr Burnham said.
He said this would result in “more experienced staff on the phones and better classification of calls”.
Speaking to reporters after his speech, Mr Burnham said it was “abundantly clear that NHS 111 is not working” and that while the previous NHS Direct service “was not perfect”, it had “more experienced professionals on the end of a phone able to make better judgment calls”.
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NHS 111 has had a troubled history, including a delayed rollout and the withdrawal of one of its main providers a few months after it went live.
More recently, the service has been accused of contributing to accident and emergency pressures due to call handlers advising too many patients to attend A&E.
Mr Burnham said that making ambulance services an integrated provider of emergency and out of hours care would be a “substantial answer” to relieving pressure on A&E departments, because a lack of integration “often results in carrying to hospital as the default option”.
He said the new integrated service would be “able to treat people where they find them”, with a presumption that people should be treated at home if clinically safe and appropriate.
To make this work Mr Burnham said paramedics would need to be able to call on a “wider range of health professionals” including “GPs, occupational therapists, physios [and] care assistants”.
These workers would “settle and support people at home in out of hours times before handing over to local teams”, he said.
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NHS 111 would be handed over to ambulance services under Labour