Concern were raised after an internal audit of calls with people suspected of having Covid-19 handled by nurses, paramedics and physios found 60% to be unsafe.
The internal audit of calls handled by the Covid-19 Clinical Assessment Service (CCAS) which is operated by South Central Ambulance Service was conducted after 111 call handlers themselves reported a worrying lack of training and not feeling “properly skilled and competent” to fulfil such a critical role. CCAS operates nationally and its staff are responsible for calling people whose potential Covid-19 symptoms have been identified by 111 as serious enough to warrant a discussion with a clinician.
As a result nurses, paramedics, and physios from handling clinical calls with CCAS in future. However, NHS England has clarified that nurses and associated health professionals will continue to take Covid-related calls within “local 111/CAS [Clinical Assessment Service] providers. It is only nurses and AHPs working within the CCAS that have been suspended from taking calls.”
A number of individual incidents are being investigated to determine whether the advice given may have caused harm to the patient, with one case already the subject of a serious untoward incident investigation.
The failures identified will only intensify calls from the families whose relatives have died as a result of Covid 19 for a public inquiry into the performance of the 111 service.
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Jo Goodman, the co-founder of the bereaved families group, said: “The revelations about the NHS 111 service are really shocking and upsetting for anyone who has lost a loved one to the pandemic. The more we hear, the clearer it becomes that those taking calls from individuals in life-or-death situations were terrifyingly ill-prepared for that crucial role. As cases are rising, we have to ask whether any lessons have been learned to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”