The government should announce a parliamentary inquiry into the chaotic contracting and deployment of NHS 111, a BMA spokesperson says.
“What I want out of this is a complete halt to NHS 111, a parliamentary inquiry and commons select committee inquiry,” the BMA’s General Practitioners’ Committee NHS 111 spokesperson Dr Peter Holden told EHI.
“I believe there has been wrong doing here. It highlights the race to the bottom when contracting.”
The non-emergency telephone help line was due to go-live across the country this April, but has been plagued by problems such as long wait times and calls being abandoned.
NHS Direct, which holds contracts to provide the health line to around one third of the population, announced this week that it is pulling out of its contracts because they are “financially unsustainable”.
Commissioners in these areas must now find alternative providers.
On Monday evening, Channel 4’s Dispatches programme aired footage from undercover reporters posing as call centre handles.
It revealed issues such as staff shortages and non-clinicians giving clinical advice at two NHS 111 call centres operated by Harmoni.
Dr Holden was one of two experts asked to review footage.
He said the secret filming shows the service is not experiencing “teething problems”, as NHS England claims, but is fundamentally not geared up to deal with demand and therefore putting patient safety at risk.
“CCGs are being made to pick up the pieces for things they had nothing to do with, this is what’s so wrong,” Dr Holden added.
He acknowledged that there are areas where NHS 111 is performing well. He said the BMA’s position has always been that the service could be of benefit if properly rolled-out, but senior managers insisted on rushing ahead.
“The whole of this business has been a disgrace from start to finish, an ethical disgrace, a contractual disgrace and a professional disgrace.
"It could all could have been avoided if senior civil servants and senior managers hadn’t been pandering to politicians’ egos.”
“The profession is going to re-seize the day from managers, it’s tough talk but time it was said,” he added.
Dr Holden said he has no sympathy with NHS Direct, which “suicidally underbid” to get contracts.
However, he believed the organisation would not be allowed to fail and therefore millions of tax payer pounds would be spent on giving it a “soft landing."
“We have to have an inquiry, we can’t have a rerun of this: it’s unacceptable,” he said.