News : Crisis Talks Over Dorset's Troubled 111 Call Centre
Dorset, UK, Feb 24, 2016 -- Crisis talks will be held next week as staff at Dorset's troubled NHS 111 call centre reveal they are at "breaking point."
Senior members of the Royal College of Nursing will meet executives from South West Ambulance Service Trust to discuss their concerns.
The St Leonard's call centre has been at the centre of a storm following the tragic death of one-year-old William Mead from Penryn in Cornwall.
His worried mum called 111 when he was ill and a call handler at the centre, which is one of two covering Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, failed to realise how ill he was. The little boy died of sepsis hours later.
Pictures later emerged of staff apparently asleep at their desks and teenagers with tinsel in their hair taking urgent calls over the Christmas period.
Senior RCN officer Steve Pulsford wrote to executives at the trust in December and they have agreed to meet him on Monday February 29.
He said: "Members are telling us that they are at breaking point as they feel that their concerns have not been taken seriously. One of the issues is that they feel under pressure to reduce 999 callouts.
"Members also tell us that high sickness and absence levels are putting remaining staff under greater pressure. They say that at times staffing levels are not safe and nurses are feeling unable to take their unpaid breaks because of the lack of clinical cover."
He said the impact on patients is that, at times, call queues are too high and there are potentially dangerous waiting times for patients. He added: "This is causing our members, and other staff in the service, great distress."
An investigation has already been launched by the Care Quality Commission.
South Western Ambulance Service's chief executive, Ken Wenman, said: "We are aware of these concerns and have already included them in an investigation which has been commissioned. I had also already agreed to meet with the RCN next week to discuss the matter further.
"In addition, the CQC will be undertaking an early inspection and we look forward to the outcome of this as well as the investigation. Patient safety and staff welfare is our highest priority and all complaints and concerns raised are taken very seriously."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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More Editorial From South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust
About South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust:
The South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) is the organisation responsible for providing ambulance services for the National Health Service (NHS) in the English districts of Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, North Somerset, Scilly Isles Somerset, South Gloucestershire and Wiltshire. The Foundation Trust was authorised on 1 March 2011 by Monitor (the Independent Regulator for NHS Foundation Trusts) to run the ambulance services run previously by the NHS Trust as a result of the merger of the Westcountry and Dorset ambulance services, and the subsequent merger with neighbouring Great Western Ambulance Service on 1 February 2013. This latter merger was announced in 2011, and staff were asked to accept changes in their pay and conditions.
About Royal College Of Nursing:
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is a union membership organisation with over 395,000 members in the United Kingdom. It was founded in 1916, receiving its Royal Charter in 1928, Queen Elizabeth II is the patron. Most members are registered nurses but student nurses and healthcare assistants are also admitted.
Published: Friday, February 26, 2016