THE ambulance service which oversees Burton has taken over the running of the troubled NHS 111 helpline.
West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) has revealed it will assume responsibility for the non-emergency number – which is still being investigated for its connection to three deaths in the Midlands – from November 11.
The helpline was plagued with problems from its launch in April, with patients complaining of calls going unanswered, being diverted to the wrong part of the country and receiving incorrect advice.
An investigation was set up into more than 20 serious incidents, including one death in the West Midlands and two in the East Midlands.
WMAS chief executive Anthony Marsh told the Mail: “We are delighted to be able to provide the NHS 111 service going forward.
“We believe our expertise in running complex clinical call handling operations will allow us to bring real improvements to the 111 service.”
The NHS Direct 0845 46 47 telephone number will be switched off at the end of November in the West Midlands.
Callers will be advised to hang up and redial the free NHS 111 service.
The free one-stop number is for patients with urgent but not life-threatening symptoms
This includes people needing fast medical help but who are not a 999 emergency.
Trained advisers who answer the phones offer basic health advice and direct the caller to the best service
An NHS commissioners’ report in April 2013 found the NHS Direct service in some areas was ‘unacceptably low’.
Andy Williams, lead commissioner for the NHS 111 project team, said he was confident the change would mean an ‘improved service for our patients and public’.
He said: “We are pleased that WMAS is stepping in to provide this service as we believe it’s a natural fit and will strengthen the service as we come into the winter season.
“WMAS has already implemented an upgraded training programme for call-handling staff which will improve the clinical governance process, and this will continue for the next few months.
“In addition, as new staff are recruited into the call-handling team, they will undergo this enhanced training package before becoming operational.”