GP: ‘NHS 111 service should be scrapped and money used to pay for other things’

A GP has called for the NHS 111 service to be scrapped, and for the money to be spent 
Sian Whyte giving her speech at the LMC conferenceSian Whyte giving her speech at the LMC conference
Sian Whyte giving her speech at the LMC conference

Sian Whyte, of Fishers Field, Buckingham has been a GP for 12 years, and works out of her practice in Milton Keynes.

In a speech at a recent national conference of the Local Medical Committee (LMC) Dr Whyte aired her views about the non-emergency advice line.

The address attracted widespread praise for Dr Whyte, and was covered by the medical press. She was also asked to give a closing talk on the final night.

Speaking to this newspaper after the conference Dr Whyte, who is the wife of Bucks County Council cabinet member Warren Whyte, said: “GPs don’t have any faith in 111, we feel that it is grossly over funded and not practical.

“Using the line a patient may be triaged and go and see their GP, when really the appropriate course would be to go to a pharmacy.

“This happens in A&E too. Because the operators are not doctors they take the safe option, and refer everyone on.”

She added: “If 111 is stopped and the money invested in existing out of hours and GP services we would see money value for money.”

And Dr Whyte claimed that while services in her own practice area are working well, they are being stretched by a service she claims is not fit for purpose.

She said: “We are lucky at our practice in that in general we will always do our very best to see people on the day, or the next day, but we can’t always do that.

“And when you have people booking who have called 111 that is taking an appointment away from somebody else.”

She added: “I am a Conservative, but I don’t think that any government has particularly got a handle on the health service. What needs to be addressed is patient demand.

“Things like 111, which aren’t working particularly well could go, and the money could be spent on services which do work well.”

The 111 service was started by 2013 and was beset by problems, with many areas missing their planned targets for roll out. To use the service patients can dial the number and speak to an operator, who will ask a number of questions about the symptoms.

The operator will then offer health advice, depending on what a computer algorithm says in answer to the question, and has the option of calling an ambulance for the patient.