Letter: A new NHS

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The letter from Dr Danny Wallace (9 December) reflects the current lack of awareness about the structure, function and future development of NHS Direct. This is understandable as the blueprint for this service is still being developed.

The development of a high-quality nurse triage system of the type used in our NHS Direct pilot will save lives that would otherwise be lost in the current model of healthcare. It will also have a beneficial effect on the outcomes of episodes of acute and chronic illnesses.

The system will offer the tool to integrate emerging primary care and secondary care systems in a way that will help reduce long waits in accident and emergency departments, and will help people to help themselves.

Health education will be improved, as will patients' access to services. By helping patients to consistently get to the right entry point into the health service, waste of professional and patient time will be reduced, to everyone's benefit. This is not wishful thinking but part of an exciting, evidence based, modernisation program for the NHS.

The NHS methods that have served us well since 1948 may not be the ones to lead us into the next century.

Dr KEVIN McKENNA

Medical Director

NHS Direct Northumbria

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