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Monday 26th August 2019

Scrapping NHS Direct is not a good idea

7th September 2010

Writing in New Statesman, Alice Miles says that scrapping NHS Direct was a bad call.


Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s decision to scrap NHS Direct was more political than pragmatic.

NHS Direct, introduced by the Blair government, is about reassurance for the worried middle classes rather than health.

But should we care if it closes?

It may be an imperfect service and a middle class benefit and most GPs never liked it.

But there is snobbery there too: why should a nurse be allowed to give advice that a GP has had to do five years' training after medical school to give?

However, it helps GPs with out of hours cover and as figures showed, in the first year of NHS Direct 72% of calls were out of normal hours.

But the closure – with the service to be replaced by a 111 number - is more about the government’s approach to public services rather than on any assessment of user need.

It was left vulnerable to political assault though because of poor staff morale, spiralling costs and poor staff sickness records.

I used NHS Direct the day before it closed and found the staff member I spoke to not as reassuring as I would have hoped.

NHS Direct chief executive Nick Chapman defends the decision saying that 111 would be an easier number for people to remember.

But thousands of NHS Direct staff – mainly female and nurses who are no longer able to work on the frontline because of ill health or other commitments – will be left without a job and in the current climate not likely to be able to find any other work.


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Peter English

Wednesday 29th September 2010 @ 17:41

"However, it helps GPs with out of hours cover and as figures showed, in the first year of NHS Direct 72% of calls were out of normal hours."

Did it help GPs?

The impression one gets is that the protocols were so defensive that many callers were told to seek urgent medical help, when often this was not really necessary. I wonder how many people there were who wouldn't have bothered their GP out of hours, but who were happy to call a 24/7 helpline, assuming that somebody would be up and working; and who were then instructed to call their GP (or go to AED, or call an ambulance) when it could have waited until office hours.

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