Political Promise

Goodbye NHS Direct, now where will all us hypochondriacs go?

In David Brownsey-Joyce on August 30, 2010 at 11:38 am

By David Brownsey-Joyce

The Government has confirmed the end of the road for NHS Direct just days after it launched it’s new 111 number, the 24/7 health assistance line which is designed to stop people calling 999 when they don’t need to; but wait a second, wasn’t that what NHS Direct was for? I’m confused.

That’s a little worrying as the new service, currently being trialled in the North East of England in advance of a national rollout, is designed to make it easier for people to get information. Think of it as a one stop shop for all your health needs. That is unless you need someone to treat you, in which case you’ll have to wait for an ambulance or make an appointment with a GP.

All in all this seems like a waste of money and resources for a rebranding exercise that will only add to the confusion. So now we have one emergency number and one for less urgent calls; by the way that’s what NHS County Durham is calling it, “So remember: call 111, when it’s less urgent than 999.” But only if you are in County Durham or Darlington, follow by Nottingham, Lincolnshire and Luton, who will have 111 rolled out later in the year. Everyone else will have to call NHS Direct, until it’s rolled out nationally.

This might work well if we keep the current infrastructure in place through NHS Direct, in fact it might be advisable to start headhunting the NHS Direct team whilst they wind down, and allow the use of the Summary Care Record (SCR), the plan to get 50 million patients’ details onto one central database, but somehow I don’t see it happening.

Channel 4 exclusively reported that the Government had told health authorities to stop sending out information on the SCR including how to opt-out of this centralised system and instead had increased the rate at which patients’ records were uploaded onto the system.

So you start to wonder, have the Liberals in the coalition convinced the Tories that big government is good, and that we cannot be trusted to look after ourselves.

Having said all that there is one advantage straight away of the change over, NHS Direct charges callers up to 5p per minute, based on a BT landline, but for those of us like myself who only have a mobile, don’t ask, it will be a tad more expensive; whilst the new 111 number is free. So think of all that money I can save when I call up to talk to a qualified, well trained, staff member about my clicking jaw. Oh wait, I live in London, I’ll have to wait till the program is rolled out across the country, till then its back to NHS Direct.

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  1. Enjoyable wit in the conclusion. Im still confused however, what exact advantages aside from ‘cost’ will the new helpline deliver over the tried, tested and valued NHS Direct? Is 111 suppose to facilitate efficiency? The train of confusion and bureaucracy augments.

    • I don’t think there will be an advantage. NHS Direct had qualified respondants, the exception being during the Swine Flu outbreak where a number of call centre operatives were brought in to deal with increased demand and led to a number of misdiagnosis, as staff only had a computer flowchart to work from, the 111 number will have call centre operatives as the norm rather than as the exception.

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