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Non-Emergency Phone Number

Volume 527: debated on Tuesday 26 April 2011

15. Whether he has made an assessment of the effectiveness of the 111 non-emergency number; and if he will make a statement. (52563)

NHS 111 is currently being piloted in County Durham and Darlington, Nottingham city, Lincolnshire and Luton, and a full independent evaluation of these pilots will be available in spring 2012.

In Durham, 111 calls are being answered by telephone receptionists without any medical training. They run through a list of pre-scripted questions and frequently divert ambulance paramedics away from 999 calls. Clearly that is risky. Will the Minister look into that before the number goes nationwide?

I am sorry, but the hon. Lady is a little bit confused. She says, rather dismissively, that the calls are being answered by telephonists. These are non-medically trained people who have nurses and GPs available to give them help and advice as and when the callers demand it, because of the complaint or problem that they are raising. The beauty of the 111 service is that people do not have to wait to be called back, as they do with NHS Direct. Instead, the people trained to help callers will point them towards the appropriate care—which in some cases will be the emergency services—and they are right to do so when this has been clinically determined.

Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that 111 telephone operators will be trained to the same level as 999 telephone operators?