It is clear that the 600,000 potential patients who rely on the excellent Shropdoc out of hours service are sleepwalking into a reduction in quality of service when the 111 phone system comes into effect in April.
Calling Shropdoc for medical advice results in a trained clinician – a doctor or nurse – carrying out a telephone triage to establish the patients needs and to advise the appropriate course of action, whether to call 999, go to a Shropdoc base or await a home visit by the doctor.
Under 111, this process will be conducted by a call centre where operators are trained only to ask a series of predetermined questions leading to theoretical diagnosis or advice.
The NHS has decided to award the contract to operate 111 to NHS Direct – surprise, surprise!
The introduction of NHS Direct led immediately to a rise in 999 calls and overloading A&E departments – which are the two most expensive services provided by the NHS.
Shropdoc reduced 999 calls locally by 60 per cent and established bases at the two A&E departments to divert a massive number of attendances to a GP service that could provide appropriate medical advice.
Unless we wake up and demand a proper review and consultation on this significant change to the out of hours services we currently enjoy, then it is unlikely that the Shropdoc service will be viable, the 999 ambulance services will not be able to cope and our two district hospitals will not be able to afford to maintain A&E services.
Now is the time to demand that our MPs, of all persuasions, challenge this decision.
We have the best service, we need the best service and we should not be forced to accept second best without proper consultation.
Peter W Corfield
League of Friends,