The NHS 111 service in Derbyshire is ‘dangerously understaffed’, according to a whistleblower who has gone public with her concerns.
The service is meant to provide non-emergency health advice via fully-trained advisors who are supported by experienced nurses and paramedics.
But whistleblower Irsah Tahir told ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme and the Daily Mail there were not always enough trained nurses for the call centre staff to consult and during peak periods up to 75 per cent of the calls they received went unanswered.
She said: “I’m sure if you look into it lives have been lost because mistakes have been made - we need more nurses, we need more money to help.
“I’m not medically trained and I just don’t think I was equipped to make those decisions - I find it terrifying, it’s just chaos.”
The service has come under a great deal of criticism since it launched nationally in 2013.
It replaced the national NHS Direct system with 46 separate local contracts, with Derbyshire’s being provided by private contractor, Derbyshire Health United.
Stephen Bateman, chief executive officer for Derbyshire Health United, said: “We strongly refute the assertions made by the whistle blower which are currently the subject of an internal investigation. A separate independent review of all the issues raised is being led by NHS North Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group. We are proud to operate the NHS 111 service on behalf of all the populations we serve. We can assure the public that staffing levels are safe and we continue to provide an effective, and caring service; as reported in a recent inspection by the Care Quality Commission.”
Following the investigation by the Daily Mail, Health Minister Ben Gummer said the Government had requested ‘assurances’ from NHS England that the 111 service was ‘doing all it can for patients’ and reiterated that its staff should be overseen by clinical experts in every centre.