111 callers sent to Milton Keynes

First published in News
Last updated

CALLS to the 111 non-emergency health line covering Wiltshire are being answered in Milton Keynes during busy periods.

The 111 service is run by private firm Harmoni at its call centre in Bristol but, due to changes to shift patterns, a number of staff have left resulting in calls being re-routed 100 miles away to Milton Keynes for another company to answer.

The 111 service in Wiltshire got off to a chaotic start in February 2013 with Harmoni’s call handlers sending ambulances to people with minor ailments such as sore throats and hiccups.

It wasn’t until seven months later that Wiltshire Clinical Commiss-ioning Group authorised for the service to operate 24/7, but problems continue.

Harmoni, part of Care UK, has breached targets – namely dispatching more ambulances than the contract states, more referrals to Accident and Emergency departments and below target levels of transferring callers to speak to a clinician.

The re-routing of calls at busy times to Milton Keynes was revealed at a meeting of Wiltshire Council’s Health Select Committee on Tuesday in Trowbridge.

Patrick Mulcahy, associate director of commissioning for urgent care at the CCG, said: “Harmoni have gone through a formal staff consultation in order to re-align staff members to manage peaks of activity.

"As a consequence they had a number of staff leaving. Over the last three months they have been operating with less staff than we and them would like. They can push activity to Milton Keynes, particularly at weekends.”

Coun Jeff Osborn said: “It’s all very unsatisfactory. They are not fulfilling their contract. We might as well have one call centre for the whole country.”

Coun Bob Jones said the 111 service was not fit for purpose.

Coun John Noeken met with Harmoni two weeks ago and was told that they were recruiting new staff and a new shift pattern started last Monday.

From this month the CCG can fine Harmoni for breaching targets. Dr David Lee, urgent care medical director for Care UK, said the company had reviewed staffing levels at 111.

He said: “As part of the new structure, we have the ability, as and when needed, to call on additional resources from an organisation called Conduit, an approved NHS subcontractor and experienced working in the NHS 111 service and previously in NHS Direct.

They will only provide this additional capacity when there is a surge in demand that our own colleagues cannot deal with.

“This dedicated team from Conduit, working out of a centre in Milton Keynes, has been fully trained on Care UK’s clinical systems and has access to the same directory of local services as staff in our Bristol centre. What is important is not so much where the person who receives a patient call is sitting, but that the patient’s call is answered promptly and efficiently.

“We are confident we now have a system in place which enables us to provide a first-class patient service at all times, even when the service is under heaviest pressure.”

Comments (6)

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10:02am Thu 8 May 14

Hmmmf says...

Adver wrote:
CALLS to the 111 non-emergency health line covering Wiltshire are being answered in Milton Keynes during busy periods.

Coun Jeff Osborn said: “It’s all very unsatisfactory. They are not fulfilling their contract. We might as well have one call centre for the whole country.”

When people phone an advice line they want advice, and don't much care where in the coutnry the person asnwering the phone is sitting. Since the calls are normally answered outside Wiltshire anyway, what's the big deal whether it's Bristol or Milton Keynes operators answering? One call centre for the whole country sounds like a good idea, easier to control and maintain standards and probably a lot cheaper too. As long as it's not in Bangalore.
Where's the fury?
[quote][p][bold]Adver[/bold] wrote: CALLS to the 111 non-emergency health line covering Wiltshire are being answered in Milton Keynes during busy periods. Coun Jeff Osborn said: “It’s all very unsatisfactory. They are not fulfilling their contract. We might as well have one call centre for the whole country.” [/quote] When people phone an advice line they want advice, and don't much care where in the coutnry the person asnwering the phone is sitting. Since the calls are normally answered outside Wiltshire anyway, what's the big deal whether it's Bristol or Milton Keynes operators answering? One call centre for the whole country sounds like a good idea, easier to control and maintain standards and probably a lot cheaper too. As long as it's not in Bangalore. Where's the fury? Hmmmf
  • Score: 5

11:40am Thu 8 May 14

PaulD says...

have to agree with the comment above. This seems a sensible thing to do. Better than a phone that never gets answered or a permanent engaged tone.

It's standard practice for any kind of modern support service
have to agree with the comment above. This seems a sensible thing to do. Better than a phone that never gets answered or a permanent engaged tone. It's standard practice for any kind of modern support service PaulD
  • Score: 2

12:42pm Thu 8 May 14

brandx says...

Believe it or not local knowledge is important, especially in an emergency.
Believe it or not local knowledge is important, especially in an emergency. brandx
  • Score: 1

12:54pm Thu 8 May 14

ManWithCar says...

brandx wrote:
Believe it or not local knowledge is important, especially in an emergency.
So given that the first line of the article reads:

"CALLS to the 111 non-emergency health line covering Wiltshire are being answered in Milton Keynes during busy periods."

What do you think the description 'non-emergency' means? If someone rings up and says "Hello, I can't stop hiccupping", why the heck would it matter where in the country the call centre is, hardly a local knowledge issue is it? Personally I cannot for the life of me think of any non-emergency issue that would rely on local knowledge.
[quote][p][bold]brandx[/bold] wrote: Believe it or not local knowledge is important, especially in an emergency.[/p][/quote]So given that the first line of the article reads: "CALLS to the 111 non-emergency health line covering Wiltshire are being answered in Milton Keynes during busy periods." What do you think the description 'non-emergency' means? If someone rings up and says "Hello, I can't stop hiccupping", why the heck would it matter where in the country the call centre is, hardly a local knowledge issue is it? Personally I cannot for the life of me think of any non-emergency issue that would rely on local knowledge. ManWithCar
  • Score: 2

1:16pm Thu 8 May 14

house on the hill says...

brandx wrote:
Believe it or not local knowledge is important, especially in an emergency.
Very few call centres are local to where they cover. Even the Councils council tax and benefits call centre is in Coventry, if it isnt vital to have detailed local knowledge do they need to be that local? And what if someone had moved to the area to get the job they wont have local knowledge?
I do agree that for emergencies it would be preferable, but as pretty much everything comes down to costs in this day and age, call centres will be where it is cheapest to site them. And why not, we all shop around for the best deal, companies and businesses understandably do to. Not sure what all the fuss is about.
[quote][p][bold]brandx[/bold] wrote: Believe it or not local knowledge is important, especially in an emergency.[/p][/quote]Very few call centres are local to where they cover. Even the Councils council tax and benefits call centre is in Coventry, if it isnt vital to have detailed local knowledge do they need to be that local? And what if someone had moved to the area to get the job they wont have local knowledge? I do agree that for emergencies it would be preferable, but as pretty much everything comes down to costs in this day and age, call centres will be where it is cheapest to site them. And why not, we all shop around for the best deal, companies and businesses understandably do to. Not sure what all the fuss is about. house on the hill
  • Score: 0

3:49pm Thu 8 May 14

PaulD says...

brandx wrote:
Believe it or not local knowledge is important, especially in an emergency.
such as what? any kind of information such as pharmacy opening times, out of hours services etc are all available online and this service probably has access to a central register of them regardless.

In an emergency, you call 999, not 01793 999
[quote][p][bold]brandx[/bold] wrote: Believe it or not local knowledge is important, especially in an emergency.[/p][/quote]such as what? any kind of information such as pharmacy opening times, out of hours services etc are all available online and this service probably has access to a central register of them regardless. In an emergency, you call 999, not 01793 999 PaulD
  • Score: 1

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