Is new 111 service just what doctor ordered?

Milton Keynes Hospital
Milton Keynes Hospital
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The privatised helpline due to take over from the city’s NHS Direct has been hailed as “a disaster waiting to happen”.

The new 111 call-handling scheme was picked by the government to replace all out-of-hours GP numbers as well as the award-winning NHS Direct service.

From the end of this month people in Milton Keynes will need to remember just two medical numbers – 999 for emergencies and 111 for non-emergencies.

But pilot schemes of 111 elsewhere in the country have already revealed serious problems, with ambulances sent out inappropriately up to 30 times a day.

Last week NHS Wiltshire made a public apology for difficulties experienced by patients using the new scheme.

Milton Keynes Labour spokesman Andrew Pakes predicts the service to city patients will be poorer and claimed 111 was a disaster waiting to happen.

“NHS Direct was a well-respected service that relied on trained nurses to help with inquiries. 111 uses far fewer medical staff,” he said.

Milton Keynes NHS bosses insist 111 will offer more options to patients, increase NHS efficiency and reduce pressure on ambulances.