NHS England has ordered an urgent review of the roll-out of NHS 111 and the sustainability of the current service model.
A board paper to be discussed at the NHS England board meeting this Friday says work is ongoing to stabilise the NHS 111 service.
The new urgent care telephone advice line, staffed primarily by non-clinical staff, was due to go-live across England by April, but several areas have seen delays because of operational difficulties.
In Manchester, the soft-launch of the service reportedly went into “total meltdown” on its first night and calls had to be reverted back to the previous provider.
The board paper says a small number of providers have delivered an unacceptable service while other are coping during the week, but struggling on weekends.
In light of this, NHS England has ordered an urgent review of sustainability of service, a review of individual providers, overall provider landscape, service roll-out and commissioning methods.
This will include assessing the ability of some providers to maintain service delivery and an appraisal of the likely market of providers.
“We need to be sure that the evidence that the specified service model can, in principle, meet the original stated objectives and whether any medium-term modifications are necessary,” the paper says.
NHS England will also commission an external review to learn lessons from the management and roll-out of NHS 111 so it can avoid similar problems when implementing other programmes.
The board paper says that performance has vastly improved when compared to late March and the Easter bank holiday periods.
Most providers are now hitting their Key Performance Indicators for abandoned calls of under 5%, but the target of calls answered in under 60 seconds is still a struggle for a number of providers.
“However, the service is still fragile in a number of areas and many have needed contingency,” the paper says.
NHS England regional directors are working with local NHS 111 providers and relevant CCGs on individual plans to deliver a quality service or to reintroduce 111 in areas where it was suspended due to capacity problems.
The roll-out was expected to be complete by June, but the board paper says it will now be “by the end of the summer”.
Several groups, including the British Medical Association, have called on the government to halt the roll-out of the service while issues are resolved.