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‘111 service will be ready for launch’, say Berkshire health chiefs

Last week it was reported that the NHS said it had experienced seven “potentially serious” incidents in the first few weeks of the number being launched in some areas in England.
The service will not be available in West Berkshire until June, but those rolling out the scheme locally have said that the delayed start was planned by the Government to avoid all areas going live at the same time.
The chief officer of the Newbury and District Clinical Commissioning Group, Cathy Winfield, said that she wanted to assure people that a phased introduction had been planned in Berkshire, which would minimise the risk of similar problems.
She said: “At the moment, nobody in the west of Berkshire can use it. We will be going for a public launch of the service in June. We have gone for a very sensible, stable launch.”
The head of public health and wellbeing at West Berkshire Council, Lesley Wyman, said at a recent meeting of the Health and Wellbeing Board: “We felt that we were ready to go live but the Department of Health said to wait because of the numbers that were going live.
“It was felt that it was safer for us to wait.”
NHS 111 is a free helpline for patients with urgent, but not life-threatening symptoms, including those who need fast medical help but are not a 999 emergency. It will replace the NHS Direct advice line and out-of-hours GP call centres.
The 111 service uses trained advisers who answer the phones and offer basic health advice and direct the caller to the most appropriate area for their needs with the guidance of a medical professional.
However, its launch was been plagued with difficulties, including some patients claiming that they faced long delays before managing to speak to someone.
Seven of the 46 services across England are not yet in operation and a number of others have been suspended or are receiving help to resolve issues.

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