More than 1,400 NHS Direct staff risk losing their jobs as the organisation begins a redundancy consultation period.
An NHS Direct spokesperson said 1,470 whole time equivalent staff – excluding all those delivering the organisation’s appointments line – are subject to the consultation.
The final number of staff ‘at risk’ will be confirmed at the end of the 90-day consultation period.
The government is scrapping the 0845 nurse-led health advice telephone service provided by NHS Direct in favour of NHS 111 – a service provided by predominantly non-clinical staff – from April next year.
NHS Direct has won a number of NHS 111 contracts, covering around one third of the country, but many have also gone to ambulance services or GP out-of-hours providers.
An NHS Direct spokesperson said the consultation group includes people who will move into a job providing the new 111 service with other providers, as agreed by the Department of Health.
NHS Direct chief executive Nick Chapman said: “NHS Direct is committed to avoiding redundancies wherever possible by redeploying staff into suitable alternative employment providing the new NHS 111 service with NHS Direct or one of the other providers of the service, or into roles in the wider NHS.”
NHS Direct will need 850 wte staff working on NHS 111. However, it expects there to be a “substantial number” of additional posts confirmed once it works through the details of the other services it has been commissioned to deliver by NHS Commissioning Board.
These are: the delivery of the complex health information and medicines service until March 2014; the dental nurse assessment service until March 2014; and online services – with a ‘click for nurse assessment’ service – until March 2015.
These services are currently available through NHS Direct’s 0845 service and will continue to support the NHS 111 service when it is rolled out nationally from March 2013.
“It’s early days, so we are still working through the detail about staff numbers, but we do expect this to mean continued employment for some health information advisors, dental nurse advisors, nurse advisors and support roles,” said Chapman.
It is not only NHS Direct jobs that are being put at risk by the roll-out of NHS 111.
Neil Cardwell, who works for Merseyside OOH provider Urgent Care 24, said his organisation was part of the losing bid to provide the NHS 111 service in the North West.
While staff can be transferred to the new service being provided by NHS Direct, this would involve travelling to a proposed “mega call-centre” in Bolton.
“The reality is that most people who work in the out-of-hours sector won’t be able to transfer to Bolton,” he said.
Cardwell said 30-50 jobs are at risk. He is campaigning for NHS Direct to maintain its local call centres to prevent job losses and to ensure local knowledge is retained.