• Divert to 111 has been “switched off” in Bolton due to concerns around the time taken to answer calls
  • Patients calling their GP surgery outside normal hours instead to be directed straight to the GP out of hours services
  • Move follows feedback from Bolton Foundation Trust, which reported a surge in emergency attendances after 111 contract launched

PERFORMANCE: A divert to the 111 telephone service in Bolton has been “switched off” due to concerns about the time taken to answer calls, HSJ has learned.

Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group said patients calling their GP surgery outside normal hours are instead being directed straight to GP out of hours services.

This was the arrangement before November, when a new five year contract for the 111 helpline went live in the North West.

The move follows feedback from Bolton Foundation Trust, which reported a surge in emergency attendances when the contract launched.

The 111 service, which is run by North West Ambulance Service and has its headquarters in Bolton, has faced issues with staff sickness and recruitment and was handed an improvement notice in January.

Call handling for GP out of hours is included in the new contract for all CCGs in the region, with the exception of St Helens.

Blackpool CCG, the lead commissioner, said the terms of the deal do not need to be changed in light of the changes in Bolton.

Recent board papers for Bolton FT said Bolton CCG had agreed for 111 to be “switched off” at GP practices from 25 April.

Su Long, chief officer at Bolton CCG, told HSJ: “On local commencement of the rollout of the 111 new contract in November, Bolton CCG removed phone handling and triage from our out of hours service and directed out of hours calls to 111. This was in response to the commissioning expectation that there would not be re-triage of people using 111.

“Due to feedback from GPs and A&E on pressure on A&E thought to be linked to 111 triage, and due to issues with time taken to answer calls, the CCG reinstated the direction of patients calling their GPs out of hours to telephone assessment by the GP out of hours service.

“This provides greater resilience, and responds to patient feedback that they tend to ring their practice when they need the out of hours GP service.”

According to the latest NWAS board report, between January and March less than 60 per cent of calls to 111 were answered within one minute, against a target of 95 per cent. Performance improved to around 80 per cent in April.

A spokeswoman for NWAS said: “The trust works closely with lead commissioners, and all local CCGs, urgent care networks etc. We are not aware of changes to 111 commissioning arrangements relating to any of the North West CCGs and we continue to work closely with commissioners and providers across the North West to ensure we work collaboratively for the benefit of all patients using both 111 and 999 services.”