'Inadequate' Rating For South West NHS 111 Service
22 June, 2016
When we rely so heavily on the emergency services to get it right, it’s scary to hear when they have made a mistake. What is scarier, however, is when they have consistently made mistakes, up to the point that one service, South West 111 NHS line, has been rated inadequate. This is something that should never have been allowed to happen.
The media are often quick to jump on the mistakes of 111 call centres, as there was much controversy over their introduction and the idea that non-medical professionals would assess the call initially. As a result, it’s easy to be sceptical about any stories that come out surrounding 111 services. However, when little William Mead died from septicaemia in 2014, it was clear that 111 call handlers had failed to spot his condition, and it was widely reported that they missed chances to save him. Now, that same trust has been rated inadequate, and whilst that won’t bring William back, it should force the service to improve these issues, and prevent something similar happening again.
No-one is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes, but when you’re putting your life, or your child’s life, in the hands of others you expect it to be taken seriously. The question is also whether less mistakes would be made if the calls were answered by doctors and nurses themselves, rather than relying on call-backs that can take hours to come. The report found that staff were asleep on the job, with calls sometimes taking as long as 21 hours to receive a call back. For those who are severely ill, but do not realise it enough to dial 999, this kind of delay could prove fatal. As it did in the case of William Mead. There were also limited efforts to deal with the problems, despite a ‘large number of complaints’ from patients, staff, and professionals in healthcare.
Up to 14% of calls went unanswered in the South West in 2014, almost double the national average of 8%. This could, and did, lead to severe consequences, and First4lawyers welcomes the recognition of this by the report. However, ti’s too late for some, and if this initial concerns had been listened to it may not have reached the point of being rated ‘inadequate’. There is clearly still a long way to go for the South West services, but we hope that this report leads to significant improvement and helps other families avoid the tragedy that William Mead’s family did, and still do, face.
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