Three deaths and another 19 “potentially serious" incidents are being investigated in relation to the NHS's 111 non-emergency helpline, which was rolled out nationally last month.
There had already been complaints about calls going unanswered and poor advice being given. This followed concerns before the national roll-out after pilot schemes showed disastrous results, with tales of patients waiting hours for advice, and others asked to call back later.
According to Pulse magazine, an 83-year-old in the East Midlands died after a friend called 111 to say that the person had collapsed with severe abdominal pain. When paramedics arrived the patient was dead, and the report says the call centre may have delayed calling an ambulance.
Another patient died in the West Midlands after dialling 111 and being told to go to the nearest GP clinic.
A third death, involving a suspected overdose, is being investigated. The patient’s family called 111 and requested mental health assistance but the patient was found dead at home.
A total of 22 serious incidents are being investigated.
NHS England did not confirm the reports, but said: “The safety of patients must be our paramount concern and NHS England will keep a careful eye on the situation to ensure NHS 111 provides not only a good service to the public, but one which is also safe."
A spokesman from Derbyshire Health United - which covers NHS 111 in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire - said it was investigating the two deaths in the East Midlands but that it believed the system and processes that were followed would have been "exactly as expected".
A Department of Health spokesman said: "We know that there is pressure on urgent care services and this isn't just about A&E, it's also about how the NHS works as a whole, and how it works with other areas such as social care.
"We are in discussions with NHS England and others to see how best to get long-term solutions to a long-term problem."Reuse content