Cornwall, UK, May 23, 2016 -- A probe has been launched into a non-emergency health helpline service in the Westcountry following allegations made by a whistleblower in the aftermath of a toddler's death.
NHS 111, which in Devon and Cornwall is operated by South Western Ambulance Service Foundation Trust (SWASFT), will be scrutinised by NHS Improvement.
It is the third independent investigation launched into concerns raised by the whistleblower following the death of William Mead from Penryn.
The toddler died after his fatal sepsis infection was dismissed as a common cough by call handlers.
The case was the subject of a damning report by the NHS earlier this year.
Subquently, former manager Sarah Hayes went public to say the service was "unsafe" for young children and babies and that doctors were so overworked some had fallen asleep while on duty.
A spokesman for NHS Improvement said they were looking into services ahead of the publication of a report by watchdogs the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
"We are looking into NHS 111 services provided by South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust and the way they are run, to find out whether improvements are needed for its patients.
"We want to make sure that those patients using the trust's NHS 111 services are getting the very best service possible. That's why we are looking into the trust's 111 services ahead of the Care Quality Commission's report and the trust's independent report into its 111 services."
A spokesman for the CQC confirmed that an inspection of the NHS 111 service operated by SWASFT had been already been conducted.
He said it was brought forward in the schedule as a result of concerns which had been raised.
The report is expected to be published in late June.
SWASFT said it has also commissioned an independent review into the claims.
William Mead died in December 2014 sepsis caused by an underlying chest infection and pneumonia.
According to a report by NHS England his mother, Melissa, spoke to medics at least nine times in the 11 weeks leading up to William's death.
He was seen by several GPs who failed to spot that his condition was deteriorating.
On the day before his death, Mrs Mead called 111 for advice and also spoke to an out-of-hours GP who did not have access to any of her son's medical records.
The 111 call handler failed to explore further some of Mrs Mead's comments about William's condition, including that his temperature had gone from a high 40C (104F) to a low 35C (95F) – a sign of sepsis.
But the report also blamed GPs for the baby's death, saying a "significant" opportunity was missed in the last weeks of the toddlers life to diagnose sepsis.
In February Sarah Hayes, a former senior call adviser for the non-emergency hotline in the South West, told the Daily Mail she believed the service was "unsafe" for young children and babies.
She said there was "frequently" no on-call clinician in the call centre and nurses and paramedics were "so exhausted and overworked that some would fall asleep on shift."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Date Posted: Thursday, May 26, 2016
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