• Almost 30 calls mistakenly not passed onto 999 service
  • Two “category 2” patients may have suffered harm

Two patients may have suffered harm after almost 30 NHS 111 calls were not passed onto the 999 service, despite being triaged as needing an ambulance. 

South East Coast Ambulance Service Foundation Trust said 29 calls were closed by mistake in the first couple of days after it launched an interim NHS 111/ integrated urgent care service for North and West Kent and Medway in March.

Two calls which were triaged as category 2 calls – meaning they should have received an ambulance response within 18 minutes – had a “potential risk of the patient involved suffering harm due to a delay in our response,” the trust said.

It added that, at this stage, neither of the patients were thought to have experienced ongoing issues because of the delay. It has written to the patients as part of its duty of candour, and investigations are ongoing.

According to the trust, the majority of the remaining 27 mistakenly closed calls were triaged as needing a lower priority ambulance response. These patients are likely to have experienced delays in getting an ambulance but there is no indication they suffered any harm. Some had called back and were retriaged as not requiring an ambulance.

HSJ understands the calls were closed due to a combination of system and user errors. The problems were discovered within two days of the service going live on 28 March 2019, and the trust said it took immediate action to prevent further occurrences.

“A permanent solution to resolve the issue was established within the first week of the launch. There has been no reoccurrence and the service is performing well,” the trust said in a statement.

The NHS 111 service across Kent, Medway, Sussex and Surrey was previously provided by SECAmb and Care UK in partnership. That contract ended in March 2019, but a procurement for a new integrated service in Kent was halted in late 2018. SECAmb is now providing an interim service for parts of the county until March 2020.