Fears for patients as ‘111’ calls abandoned – Government called to ‘get a grip’ on issue

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In 2020, 2,490,663 calls were abandoned, while in 2021 this figure increased to 3,531,186. And 1,174,159 gave up on the line from January to May this year. Callers in Devon take an average of 11 minutes to get through to the NHS 111 service, according to Liberal Democrat research.

Daisy Cooper, Lib Dem spokeswoman for health and social care, said: “Ambulance services are being stretched to breaking point, hospitals are reaching full capacity and now people cannot get through to NHS 111. We have called on this government time and time again to get a grip on this issue by recruiting more NHS 111 call handlers now.”

“The longer they delay, the longer they are leaving people in pain and distress.”

Helen Hughes, of the Patient Safety Learning charity, said: “These figures represent a serious safety concern. Each call is a potential missed opportunity for patients to receive timely medical advice that may prevent future harm.”

“With the ongoing severe pressures faced by ambulance services and hospitals this summer, patients are increasingly being signposted to NHS 111 for advice on non-lifethreatening conditions.”

“However, it can only relieve the pressure on other areas of the health service if NHS 111 has the capacity and resources to meet rising demand. The NHS leadership needs to urgently assess the reasons for this high number of abandoned calls.”

The 111 service is designed for people who have an urgent medical problem but not a medical emergency. It is available 24 hours a day.

The Department of Health and Social Care said: “The information … presents a slightly skewed picture of calls made to NHS 111.

“The latest published data shows just 8.6 per cent of calls were abandoned after 30 seconds – the lowest proportion in the last 12 months. The NHS is providing £50million of additional support to NHS 111 this year to boost call taking and increase capacity, to give patients the help they need, including offering clinical advice from healthcare professionals.”

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