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NHS 111 helpline has not saved money

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Pilots of the NHS 111 telephone helpline have not saved money nor delivered all the benefits predicted by ministers, evaluation has shown.

A report by the Sheffield University's School of Health and Related Research, one year after NHS 111's launch, found 92 per of callers were satisfied with the service; researchers concluded it has 'potential for the future'. The 24-hour non-emergency helpline has taken more than 1,000,000 calls since its launch in August 2010.

But some expected benefits such as a reduction in emergency ambulance journeys and emergency department visits have not materialised. The evaluation instead found evidence of an increase in the use of emergency ambulances and revealed a need to review some call assessment processes, particularly for referrals to 999 ambulance services.

Researchers measured activity at four pilot sites - one provided by the ambulance service and three delivered by NHS Direct - to assess the extent to which the service was useful and cost-effective.

The DH aims to replace the nurse-staffed NHS Direct service with NHS 111, rolling out the latter in England by a deadline of October 2013.

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