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News : 75% of Referrals to GP from 111 Helpline ‘Not Needed'
London, UK, May 21, 2015 -- The NHS 111 helpline is wrongly telling tens of thousands of patients that they should see a GP, according to a poll of doctors.
Almost three quarters of those who are advised to see a family doctor immediately are not actually seriously ill.
GPs say the non-emergency helpline is creating ‘anxiety’ and telling patients to seek urgent medical help for heavy periods, sore thumbs and ‘simple colds’.
GPs will call for 111 service to be scrapped warning that it is wholly ineffective, grotesquely expensive and dangerous.
They will hold a debate at the Local Medical Committee conference in London – comprising regional bodies of GPs – urging for the helpline to completely overhauled.
The system was launched in Spring 2013 to provide round the clock medical advice to patients in the hope of preventing them going to A&E.
But it crashed on the first weekend, the Easter bank holiday, and seriously ill patients were left waiting up to 11 hours to be called back by a doctor.
It is manned by unqualified staff in call centres who go through system of questions on a computer screen to establish if patients are seriously ill.
They may be told to see a GP or if more serious, to attend A&E or call for an ambulance.
GPs say the non-emergency helpline is creating ‘anxiety’ and telling patients to seek urgent medical help for heavy periods, sore thumbs and ‘simple colds’ (stock image)
But a poll of 580 GPs by Pulse magazine found that 70 per cent of doctors believed the majority of patients referred to them did not need to be there
Further analysis of the results found that on average, 73 per cent of patients referred to a GP had been referred despite circumstances that were not ‘clinically appropriate.’
Dr Chris Kenyon, a GP in Oxford, said: ‘I despise NHS 111 with every fibre of my being.
‘It is the creator of anxiety and totally useless clinical activity which removes resources from what really needs to be done. It is expensive, harmful and a major insult to professional integrity.’
Dr Stephen Tomkinson, GP in Manchester, said one of his patients was told she may have the Ebola virus having returned from a holiday in the Caribbean.
The call handler had wrongly assumed Barbados was in West Africa and advised her to go straight to A&E.
Dr Bharat Nanavati, who also practices in Manchester said: ‘We need to be rid of NHS 111’.
He said how one of his patients – a young woman – had called the helpline for advice on medication to take for period pains.
She was told to go to A&E within the next hour and even offered an ambulance.
Around 37,000 patients call the helpline each day of whom two thirds are told to go and see a GP.
Another 11 per cent are sent ambulances and 8 per cent advised to go to A&E.
The College of Emergency Medicine, who represent A&E doctors, said the helpline was partly to blame for the surge in patients going to casualty this winter.
And in January a whistleblower told ITV News that at busy periods there were 200 patients hanging on the line at her call centre, with some waiting 45 minutes to be answered.
Dr Charlotte Jones, the British Medical Association’s spokesman for 111 said the helpline needed to be ‘reviewed.’
‘We are aware of the views surrounding 111 and know that improvements need to be made.
‘These include putting in place stronger clinically trained staff to support call handlers and improving algorithm (computer system) training.’
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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NHS Direct is a 24 hour health advice and information service provided by the National Health Service (NHS) in England. NHS Direct provides confidential access to medical information, guidance and reassurance through a range of interactive services. These include an expert telephone advice line and detailed web resources.
Published: Tuesday, May 26, 2015