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Response times still not up to par, say bosses at NHS's non-emergency service
RESPONSE times have improved for the NHS’s non-emergency 111 service, though bosses say it has “not quite matched expectations”.
Latest figures, for July show 96 per cent of calls were answered in 60 seconds, the first time they have hit a target of at least 95 per cent.
That was up from 76 per cent in March, meaning 88 per cent were on target since September 2012.
And the level of calls abandoned after 30 seconds also improved, from eight per cent in March to one per cent in July.
Yet demand has fallen, from 24,443 callers in March to 16,590 in July.
The service replaced NHS Direct last September to give advice for non-life threatening problems and to call out GPs and ambulances.
South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) won the contract to run 111 for Oxfordshire, Hampshire and Berkshire.
Chief executive Will Hancock said at its annual meeting last week running the service had been “a rocky road”.
He said: “It has been very challenging to deliver. The vast majority of demand all comes in during a short period of time in the evenings or Saturday and Sunday mornings.
“We have absorbed the three counties pretty successfully and we are hitting all the performance standards.”
The service now had opportunities to expand around the UK and was getting ready to take on Buckinghamshire. He said: “It is a really good success story.”
He said: “We have to win those contracts on bids and may well in the future have to compete for 999 as well.
“That is quite a big challenge.”
John Nichols, director of 111, said: “We are not making the most that we can of it. That is not just us, that is nationally around 111.
But he said: “NHS 111 is a brand new service. There is nothing quite like it and the delivery has not quite matched the expectation.”
Jacquie Pearce-Gervis, Patient Voice chairman, said: “I am glad the response rate is improving. “But the public still doesn’t have confidence in some of the advice given by the service. “Members of the public would have more confidence if there was a doctor in the control room.”
Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, which makes NHS funding decisions, would promote it more in winter, said chief operating officer Sue Byrne.
She described a suggestion to advertise 111 on ambulances as a “great idea”.
The national change to 111 has been fraught with problems. In July NHS Direct pulled out of 11 of the 46 contracts to run 111 services across the country due to financial problems.