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111 Telephone Service

Volume 542: debated on Tuesday 27 March 2012

11. What recent representations he has received on the 111 pilot telephone service; and if he will make a statement. (101882)

I have received representations from the British Medical Association and the NHS Alliance, both of which support the NHS 111 model, requesting an extension of the roll-out deadline of April 2013. I am actively considering that, and will be discussing it with the clinical commissioning groups who are leading the development of NHS 111 in their areas.

Will the Secretary of State accept representations from me? I have used the 111 service on behalf of a family member, and I know that it is not working as well as it might, which is quite distressing. The call time and the script do not allow a person receiving a particular type of care to be fast-tracked to a clinician. I believe that there is a case for delaying its roll-out, and that the service would be infinitely better if the Secretary of State took my representations on board.

I will of course accept representations from my hon. Friend and, indeed, from anyone else. Pilot schemes are under way in County Durham and Darlington and in Nottingham, Lincolnshire and Luton. The system is also live in Derbyshire, the Isle of Wight, Cumbria, parts of Lancashire and parts of London. An evaluation will be published shortly by the university of Sheffield, but an interim evaluation suggested that 93% of patients were pleased with the service that they had received, and, most important, 84% felt that it had delivered them to the right place first time.

Will the Secretary of State confirm the provision in regulation, reinforced by his new guidance, that no GPs should use 0844 numbers for their surgeries? Some patients are having to pay over the odds to contact their GPs.

We have made it very clear that GPs should not be using 0844 numbers for that purpose and charging patients for them. One of the benefits of NHS 111 is that it will be a free service for patients, and will give them an opportunity to gain access to integrated urgent care wherever they are in the country. That is why we want to roll it out as soon as we can.

Given the importance of 111 contracts, should we not delay assigning them until the clinical commissioning groups are properly in place?

My hon. Friend will recall from my first answer that I am looking to discuss the timing of the roll-out with clinical commissioning groups. I do not want that to be unduly delayed, because there are clear benefits to patients in the 111 system in that it gives them a more integrated single point of access to the NHS.