PERFORMANCE: The provider of the largest 111 contract in the country has been issued an “improvement notice” by commissioners, just weeks into a five year deal.

North West Ambulance Services Trust became the substantive provider of the region’s 111 helpline in November, having provided the service on an interim basis following the withdrawal of NHS Direct in 2013.

Under the new contract, NWAS is responsible for fronting calls for many more GP out of hours services across the region.

According to the trust’s board papers for February there were particular problems in Manchester, as the “activity profile was significantly different from the project activity and more prolonged than the profile had suggested”.

The trust failed the following targets in December and January (figures relate to performance for whole of the North West):

  • Calls abandoned – 15 per cent abandoned against target of less than 5 per cent.
  • Call back in 10 minutes – performance around 37 per cent against 75 per cent target.
  • Warm transfer – performance around 35 per cent against 75 per cent target.
  • Call pick within 60 seconds – 55 per cent against target of 95 per cent.

Problems often arose in the early evening due to sudden surges over short periods of time when out of hours calls started being diverted.

The papers said that NWAS director of operations Derek Cartwright told the previous meeting there were “substantial increases in activity from 80 calls to 280 within 15 minutes, which was difficult to resource effectively; in addition of up to 20 percent of sickness particularly in call handling over the Christmas period”.

They added: “He advised that in January 2016 the commissioners had issued the trust with a formal improvement notice although only a few weeks into a five year contract.

“In response to a question… regarding whether the targets were achievable, the chief executive advised that the trust was aware of the targets when the bid was submitted, but it had been the profile particularly in Manchester which was significantly different that had affected the plan.”

HSJ understands there have been some improvements in February and March.

Blackpool CCG is the lead commissioner for the service.