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Editorial Janet Snell ACTING DEPUTY EDITOR

The loss of NHS Direct is an attack on nursing It has been on the cards for a while, but now we know: NHS Direct in England is being scrapped. This is despite it saving the health service an estimated £213 million a year and being trusted and popular with the public. It was a nurse-led service to be proud of. So why hasn’t there been more of an outcry from nurses? The government claims the cost of each call can be reduced from £20 to £7-£9 – a cut achieved by employing fewer nursing staff. But the move will only save money in the long run if people use the new NHS 111 service as much as they did its predecessor.


Every call to NHS Direct that avoided a visit to A&E saved the NHS £83. Every ambulance journey avoided saved £300. If people feel the new service is inferior, they will not use it and that could end up costing more. NHS England says its latest data show a significant improvement in the NHS 111 service since April. Well, it could hardly have been worse. The launch was a shambles, the service went into meltdown in some areas and public confidence plummeted. Eighty per cent of NHS Direct advisers were nurses. In NHS 111, as few as 20 per cent of staff may have a health qualification. Would a worried parent with a sick child rather speak to a nurse or a call handler who used to sell double glazing who has had 60 hours’ training? A nurse could well pick up on a seemingly unimportant remark that may turn out to be life-saving. Nurses cost more, but you get what you pay for. Is the scrapping of NHS Direct based on evidence or ideology? The British Medical Association challenged the government over the data from the NHS 111 pilot schemes. But the change was steamrollered through anyway. Ditching this nurse-led service is an attack on nursing and on the NHS as private firms snap up the contracts. On our letters page Zebra Arif calls on nurses to make some noise. She is right. Let the fightback begin. See news page 12 and letters page 32 Air your views on

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The loss of NHS Direct is an attack on nursing.

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