Letter; Time for action if we want to keep the ShropDoc service

Your pages and website have all been given to the widespread concerns about the new telephone number for health NHS 111.

This system, I hesitate to use the word “service,” is an example of the government’s determination to put all NHS services out to tender in the market and demonstrates some of the problems that pose a serious risk to the NHS and to our health.

Even before the new telephone number was introduced problems were predicted.

As we all now know call handlers were completely overwhelmed by the number of calls. Shropshire has been given a temporary reprieve.

For one month ShropDoc has taken back the handling of out of hours emergency calls.

Some parts of the country have not been so fortunate.

I have heard from colleagues elsewhere of calls ringing for an hour without answer, of call-handlers who have no concept or understanding of the seriousness of the condition that has prompted the telephone call and of delays of six or seven hours before the service rings back.

In desperation patients go directly to the hospital Accident and Emergency Department.

It is little wonder that these departments are now also struggling.

We know too, that a number of deaths are being investigated to see if NHS III is wholly or partly to blame.

If your readers wish to retain ShropDoc they must take action now.

Write to your MP and to Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group and tell them what you think.

The address is Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group, William Farr House, Mytton Oak Road, Shropshire, SY3 8XL.

If you are not sure, then ask your doctor what he or she thinks about it.

Dr Charles West

Church Stretton

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Comments for: "Letter; Time for action if we want to keep the ShropDoc service"


As far as contact is concerned we will end up with the 111 service eventually and what we must do is to make it quite clear that improvements are required or the government will be judged on it at the ballot box, along side issues like reorganisng the NHS when they assured us they would not. GP commissioning groups which even many Doctors no longer support.

We must make it clear that what Langsley/Hunt are doing is ruining our health service and we do not like or approve of it and that means lost votes.

As to Shrop Doc I assume that it will carry on as the out of hours service for GPs with the only change being how they are contacted. My hope is that we will continue to contact them direct for as long as it takes for the 111 service to equal or exceed the quality of service provided. I think the Shrop Doc reception service should now be funded by NHS 111 and adopted by them as a model of how to deal with this aspect of their role. Of course 111 is supposed to deal with a wider range of enquiries than Shrop Doc and one of the first lessons for 111 is to stream calls to the best handlers to deal with the call without delay.

The 111 service model was of course designed to operate as a commercial call center which it is not. It is private sector thinking in a caring environment and that, conflicts. If BT or British Gas lose a call or occasionally the customer waits too long it does not matter but if a 999 operator fails to answer in seconds it is a serious failure. 111 is somewhere between total service dominance and commercial acceptance of failure to answer in minutes.

Nick, Telford

Roger, you forget it was Tony Blair's government more than any other government before or since which created the situation which has led to the present crisis in emergency treatment. Back in 2003 he stuffed doctors' pockets with £50 notes in order to head off a pay rebellion by GPs. He offered them a new contract which even had the BMA goggled-eyed in amazement, for not only did it offer unimagined riches but also offered each GP an extra £5,000 a year to cover evening and weekend emergencies. With so much extra cash in their pockets GPs naturally rejected the £5,000 incentive in order to spend those evenings and weekends with their families.

Thus was created a need for agencies which offered emergency cover and these have grown into monsters swallowing up a huge chunk of the health budget, with some moonlighting GPs being paid up to £1,000 per shift. Little wonder then that there are attempts to slash this bill by offering cheaper alternatives like 111. But as with all ill-advised initiatives it is failing and no matter what shade of government the problem will have to be tackled one day, preferably with GPs being told to pick up their emergency bags again. The Department of Health has always been the graveyard of any Minister's ambition and its budget has once again proved a triumph of reality over hope.


I can only comment on my experiences with calling NHS Direct or out of hours or whatever it is called in different regions. I have had nothing but good experiences with this service and the people I have spoken to have always been helpful. Yes I have had to wait for a call back at times, but if I thought that my issue was serious enough, then I would just either call 999 or get to A&E.

The guide lines to me are very clear - if you genuinely believe that you have an emergency or life threatening situation then 999 should be called. If you are held waiting on a phone for someone to call back, then it appears that you are happy to wait and your concerns are not life threatening or serious enough to go to A&E.

My comments are very generalised and I in no way want to trivialise the heart-ache that some people have clearly had to bear through the loss of a loved one and I hope that this invaluable service is made better so it benefits people and maybe even reduces the already bulging hospital A&E departments

Ron Plenderleith

The ShropDoc is an excellent first class service, for goodness sake leave it alone.

It ain't broke don't try and fix it.

Bill Nuttall

What was there before all this ShropDoc and NHS 111? When i was a lad and poorly one weekend my mum rang the local GP up and he came out. That is how it used to be, as for asking your GP their opinion on the matter i know of sick people who have to ring up their GP Surgery each morning in the hope of getting an appointment that day as the surgery doesn,t take advance patient bookings. If they cannot get in that day the sick person has to keep ringing each morning until they are lucky. I would add that my local Surgery does not operate like this thank God.The question is why do we need ShropDoc or NHS 111? Could it be the lack of access to people,s own GP and Surgery.


The failure of such 'free' services and ultimately the NHS will be due to our fellow countrymen and woman. Not politicians or Health Chiefs. Very few people have any common sense nowadays or appreciation for vital 'free' services. Instead they think its their god given right to demand that someone looks at their broken toe nail regardless of the time of day or night.

When you have to wait hours to be seen or spoken to, in your eyes who's fault is it? the Doctors and Nurses usually you think, but actually perhaps people should start to look at the real reasons for your extra ordinate wait, the thousands of people that not only could have gone to their GP's but really could have done with not seeing or talking to anyone, looking after their sore throats themselves and not clogging up the system. Most people say, it's my right and I pay my taxes ! "I don't care if someone has just come in seriously injured and is taking several Doctors and Nurses to save their lives, I have been waiting over an hour for someone to look at my painful finger" the ugly face of civilisation and the future of society, not the failure of the NHS !

The NHS will strain and weaken and may one day fail, but I am afraid it will only be down to a certain group of people. Not David Cameron, not the NHS Chief or the Secretary of State, not the Doctors, Nurses or Paramedics but the generation of :

'its there, it's free so why not use it, sod everyone else...."

I fear for the future.


Not sure that my Dr would appreciate me asking him about the 111 service. He's very busy and doesn't really have time to discuss these matters with his patients. However, I agree that the Shropdoc service is excellent and considerably better than that offered in other areas.

The GP Contract agreed by the last government was responsible for an awful lot of good but it undoubtedly resulted in a huge pay boost for GP Practices (most of which went into the pockets of partners) and a degradation in the out of hours service.