Major surge in number of abandoned non-emergency calls to fledgling 111 service

 

The extent of the new NHS non-emergency advice line's teething problems has been laid bare after official figures revealed a stark rise in abandoned calls.

The number of people who hung up after waiting for more than 30 seconds increased from 6,976 in February to 29,100 in March, according to NHS England figures.

And the average call length also increased from 14.19 minutes in February to almost 18 minutes in March.

However, it should also be noted that the number of calls to the line increased by more than half a million between the same timeframe.

Last week, leading doctors warned that the "problematic" roll- out of the NHS 111 advice line has left patients not knowing where to turn to for help.

The Royal College of General Practitioners said patients have "lost confidence" in the new non-emergency number before it is even fully up and running across the country.

The service was supposed to be rolled out on April 1, but officials were forced to relax the deadline after it emerged that many of the advice lines - which are run by 44 individual local bodies across the country - were not ready to "go live".

And, more than a month on, seven of the regional bodies are still not ready to start giving advice to patients in their areas.

Patients have been complaining about calls going unanswered and poor advice being given, especially at weekends, which has led to hospitals being inundated with patients who could be treated elsewhere.

PA

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