Cambridgeshire health hotline pushed back to October

A health provider has come under scrutiny after its new controversial phone advice service was revealed to be six months behind schedule.

Andrew Lansley, Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire, announced in August, 2010, that the NHS Direct line – in which people can request basic healthcare advice from their home – would be replaced by NHS 111 by April this year.

But following delays in appointing a body to run the service, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is not planning to go live until October – months after most other regions.

And the move has also attracted criticism due to Herts Urgent Care (HUC) being chosen to take on the contract, rather than Urgent Care Cambridgeshire (UCC) – formerly CAMDOC – which already offers a doctors on-call service from Chesterton Hospital in Cambridge, with jobs reported to be at risk.

Daniel Zeichner, Cambridge’s Labour parliamentary candidate for the next election, said: “The NHS 111 service should have been available to local people at the start of the year – over six months later we are still waiting.

“This was a botched and rushed reorganisation of the very successful NHS Direct service introduced by the last Labour Government. With local health services under intense pressure, we need this sorted out quickly.

“It seems that we in Cambridgeshire will be the last people in the country to be connected.”

Since the 111 service started being rolled out across the country, it has been fiercely criticised for being staffed by call handlers with no medical qualifications, while yesterday NHS Direct said it would pull out of running some local lines because they were financially unsustainable.

A spokesperson for the CCG said: “NHS Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group has been working with Urgent Care Cambridgeshire (UCC) on the 111 pilot since 2012.

“Earlier this year there were concerns about implementation and the project was reviewed by the CCG Governing Body.

“The decision was then made to delay the launch until October and HUC have since been appointed to run 111 until April 2015.

“Discussions are underway between UCC and HUC about the transfer of staff. The CCG continues to commission GP Out of Hours Care from UCC.”

The Cambridgeshire 111 service will be based in a call centre in Peterborugh’s City Care Centre. In the meantime, patients requiring advice and urgent healthcare services will continue to be able to access the NHS Direct service.

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