COMMERCIAL: The launch of NHS 111 in Leicestershire has been delayed to ensure the service will be “fully fit for purpose.”

The three clinical commissioning groups covering the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland regions were one of the few areas to be granted a three month extension to the original 1 April deadline. Commissioners had hoped to launch the non-emergency service, provided by Derbyshire Health United, in June.

But in a statement today the CCGs said it was “important to ensure the service was fully fit-for-purpose and met local patients’ needs.”

The launch of NHS 111 has been plagued with problems due to unexpected demand with too few call handlers, long waits for calls to be answered and fears this has impacted on local hospital attendances.

NHS England has supported the decision to defer the launch of the Leicestershire NHS 111 service.

Dr Avi Prasad, lead for NHS 111 in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland said: “Any delay in implementing a new service is disappointing but the safety of patients must always come first.

“We’ve learned lessons from other areas where the service is live and we are working with DHU to ensure that we have a high quality, fit-for-purpose service that properly meets the needs of patients living in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. The system will only go live in our area when the CCGs are confident that it is ready to do so.”

A decision on a revised launch date will be made in due course.

In the meantime discussions are on-going with current NHS Direct and GP out-of-hours services to ensure continued services until the new service is launched.