NHS 111 Failures Put Lives At Risk


The NHS 111 helpline is a non-emergency service designed to assess your symptoms and direct you to the right medical care.

NHS 111 Failures Put Lives at Risk

The service is intended to relieve pressure on the 999 emergency line, but findings show that it could be putting people at risk by trying to remain sensitive to the current strain on NHS emergency staff. It has been discovered that 111 helpline workers are under pressure to meet ambulance arrival time limits, and are even actively discouraged to avoid sending out ambulances.

A Number of Failings

A reporter recently spent 7 weeks as a 111 helpline call handler at the call centre for the South Central Ambulance Service in Bicester. Recordings revealed the failings as part of an investigation by the Telegraph.

The individual training new staff revealed that call handlers are under pressure and working long shifts, and because of this made mistakes and failed to react properly to people suffering with serious illnesses. He can be heard saying, "Scheduling had 'cocked up' because they had 9 12-hour shifts on the run and then they 'cocked up' on a call."

Not Enough Paramedics

They found that call centre advisers were encouraged to avoid sending out an ambulance. The reporter was told that there were too few paramedics to be able to send out ambulances. He said, "There's vehicles parked without crews because they don't have enough."

At busy times, the number of ambulances couldn't fill the demand. A senior member of staff said, "People are having heart attacks, they're not breathing, they're not getting ambulances."

Because of the demand on ambulance crews, colleagues were trained to try to ask the questions in a way that might encourage a 'no' answer, as opposed to a 'yes' answer that would warrant sending an ambulance. The training mentor said, "One way or another everyone in this room has killed someone indirectly because of what we've done. But we're covered – because it's all recorded."

The demand to meet targets also meant that some members of staff had been caught fixing ambulance response times. Colleagues were encouraged to lock their computers to avoid other members of staff using their log in to do this.

Putting People at Risk

We're aware that current strains on NHS emergency services means that many people are at risk of harm due to failings in care. If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical negligence, it's important to get the right legal advice.

News Archive

Get In Touch