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Health Hotline Collapses in Cornwall

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4:04pm 5th July 2013
(Updated 4:04pm 5th July 2013)

Plans for a new health hotline have all but collapsed in Cornwall.

111 was being rolled out across the country to take the pressure off emergency services.

Now NHS Direct has pulled out of running the contract in the Duchy and Essex, saying it is not "financially viable."

The service was already on hold because of concerns about long waits and confusing advice.

Campaigner Marna Blundy has called for a review into out-of-hours services in Cornwall: "At the moment it is better the devil you know than the devil you don't but I think in the longer term we've got to look at how we actually deal with everything and I personally am of the opinion that sooner or later, we need to go back to a more local and a more personal service. We're in danger of making everything so big, that it actually collapses anyway.

"People have got to have confidence in the service and when they don't have confidence, what are they going to do? They're going to dial 999 because that's the one thing they know. Some people do use it inappropriately and there are other avenues to explore but it's got to be simple and it's got to be something they have trust in."

NHS Kernow's Director of Operations, Andrew Abbott, said: "NHS Kernow has been reviewing its plans to launch NHS 111 in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. We have been working closely with NHS England and the service provider, NHS Direct, to ensure patients would not experience any of the issues being reported across the country.  
"During this review it became clear that NHS Direct could not deliver its contract. We are now looking at alternatives to NHS Direct and will make a further announcement when ready.
"This decision will not affect the current NHS Direct 0845 46 47 service and we would encourage people to continue using it if they need medical help fast, but it's not a 999 emergency. Anyone who calls 111 in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly will continue to be asked to call 0845 46 47 or the out-of-hours service from 6.30pm to 8am, Mondays to Fridays and 24-hours a day at weekends and on Bank Holidays."

Officials have admitted that they do not know when a 111, which has been beset with problems up country, will launch in Cornwall.

Doctor Andy Haywood is in charge of getting it up and running in the Duchy: "The idea of the service is fantastic. It's one simple to remember number and it reduces the confusion of do I go to A&E? Do I ring my GP? Do I go to the out-of-hours? Where do I go for help?

"With their decision we have now to take some legal advice, take stock of the whole situation and hopefully we can move forward with the new provider of the service. We have to make sure we have the correct provider."

4:04pm 5th July 2013

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