NHS 111 service needs 'sea change' in quality

Health chiefs have called for a ‘sea change’ in quality as they look to hand the NHS 111 call service contract back to the North West Ambulance Service.

Tameside’s strategic commissioning board have agreed ‘in principle’ to directly award the responsibility of delivering core 111 call services back to NWAS.

Other options, including a short-term extension of the current contract or entering into a procurement process were not favoured by commissioners.

But committee members at the meeting at Tameside One raised concerns over the current standard of the service, which they said was ‘simply not good enough’.

Lay member Carol Prowse told the meeting that the number of calls that weren’t being picked up was ‘deeply concerning’.

“It’s clearly a huge and very important service, but actually it’s a service that has given us considerable concern in underperformance,” Ms Prowse said. 

“It’s not been functioning to the optimum. The service simply isn’t meeting the standard that we expect and there has to be a sea change.”

The contract for NHS 111 services in the north west expires in September 2020. 

Currently, it is commissioned by Blackpool’s clinical commissioning group on behalf of the rest of the region.

Cabinet member for finance, Councillor Oliver Ryan said: “The service isn’t good enough as it stands and we hear that from residents and the people who actually use it. This isn’t a service that’s operating well.”

He questioned whether a direct award was the right approach, rather than procuring the contract which would allow them to stipulate ‘deal or no deal’ on quality.

But director of commissioning, Jessica Williams said: “To be fair to NWAS I think their performance has steadily been improving. It’s under enormous pressure as many services are.

“They struggle with their core indicators around eight minutes and 12 minutes but overall I think NWAS are a good partner to us and provide safe services with caveats around some performance issues.

“The deal or no deal approach – if you haven’t got anybody who is going to come in alongside you’re in quite a difficult conversation. No other ambulance service is coming in to do this.”

Director of finance, Kathy Roe said at a Greater Manchester level bosses did not feel like they had ‘enough control’ over the ‘quality performance measures’ because the 111 service was being commissioned in Blackpool.

“We think we can do better for the money that we have got to commission with by bringing it much more into a Greater Manchester proposition,” she said.

“We have seen already some proposals to get an increase of all of those measures, in terms of how we increase the quality of care through 111 from a Greater Manchester population perspective.”

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