General practitioner

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GPs urge delay to phoneline implementation

Doctors leaders last week called for the April 2013 deadline for the roll-out of NHS 111 to be pushed back.

A letter from BMA GPs committee chair Laurence Buckman to health secretary Andrew Lansley says doctors have ‘serious misgivings’ about the implementation of the single number for urgent but not life-threatening calls.

The letter says more time is needed to evaluate seven pilots currently under way, and to allow local clinical commissioners to have proper input.

Dr Buckman says GP leaders are concerned about the impact on existing urgent, out-of-hours, unscheduled, emergency and GP services.

He writes: ‘We seek your assurance that the procurement of NHS 111 services will be slowed down to allow for proper evaluation of the pilots, and that you will adopt a flexible deadline for full implementation of the service to ensure that fledgling clinical commissioning groups can play a full role in procurement decisions. We are concerned that a failure to do this could lead to serious unintended consequences.’

NHS Direct chief executive Nick Chapman and NHS Confederation ambulance service network director Jo Webber agree that the NHS 111 roll-out should be delayed until pilot schemes have been evaluated properly. A final evaluation of four pilots by Sheffield University is due this month.

Public health minister Anne Milton said: ‘We will consider the BMA’s concerns. We agree that any long-term decision should be made with full approval from local commissioning groups. They should be fully engaged with the approach to delivering NHS 111.’