UNISON members in the South West are taking action to highlight the threat to the services provided by NHS Direct.  Nursing and Health advisors providing the NHS Direct helpline services to Cornwall and the South West based at Exeter are today, Tuesday 1 May, holding a ‘work-in’ in protest against the Government’s plans to replace NHS Direct.

NHS Direct protest

From midnight last night until to midnight tonight NHS Direct staff in Exeter are having a ‘work-in’, with extra staff are voluntarily coming in, in their own time to help staff the NHS Direct phone lines in a protest to the forthcoming changes from NHS Direct to the new 111 services, which will result in clinical staff losing their jobs and a reduction in clinical service provision.


The main centre is at Exeter, but they will be joined by nurses and health advisors from Bristol, Plymouth, Torquay, Taunton and Truro.  During that time, they expect call rates to increase between 10% and 13% tomorrow.

Michael Walker, UNISON National Officer, said:

“UNISON nurses and health advisors will be taking action today, Mayday, to urge the Department of Health to stop the roll out of the proposed 111 service until it has been fully evaluates.

“UNISON is particularly concerned that the new 111 service has fewer nurses available to take calls and therefore unqualified staff will be unable to carry out vital “clinical assessments”.  This will inevitably lead to a huge increase in accident and emergency department attendances, ambulance call outs and patients referred to GP surgeries.

“We fear that the increase volume of patient turn-up at the regions A&E departments will push many to breaking point.  We estimate up to 50 extra patients a day could present themselves to A&E departments and 1,000 extra ambulance call outs.  We’ve also looked at the costs involved in replacing NHS Direct with the new 111 service and estimate the costs will run into millions of pounds; not to mention the cost to the quality of services provided.

“The reduced scope of the new 111 service also means that vital dental and contraceptive advice will be discontinued as will services to those suffering mental health problems from patients engaged in self harm or depression.”

UNISON nursing representative and NHS Direct Nurse, Michelle Goodman, said:

“I am concerned the NHS will fail some of our patients with mental health issues.  We have been very successful in organising our training and using the experience of senior nurses in order to provide a range of help and support.  I don’t think this has really been considered by those planning and implementing the new 111 service.”

UNISON and other health organizations such as the BMA are calling for a pause in the implementation of the 111 service in order to consider the implications for urgent out of hours care as a whole.