Health

NHS Direct to close down next year

  • 24 October 2013
  • From the section Health
Woman on the phone
NHS Direct was set up in the late 1990s as a phone advice service

NHS Direct - one of the most recognisable names in the NHS - will be closed down in England next year.

The organisation, which is an NHS trust, got into financial difficulty after winning a number of the contracts for the 111 phone line.

It had already said it was pulling out of those - and this latest decision means its other services will be closed or transferred to other NHS bodies.

The NHS Direct service began 15 years ago.

It ran the national telephone advice line from the late 1990s until April this year, when the 111 service was launched.

The 111 service was split into 46 different contracts and NHS Direct won 11 of them.

But during the summer it announced it wanted to end these deals - nine of which had already started and two of which were yet to be launched - as they were "unsustainable". Replacement providers have already been found.

NHS Direct also runs a number of other services, including an information website, GP appointments booking phone line and complaints service. Many of these are expected to be transferred to other parts of the health service or put out to tender.

Innovation

NHS Direct used to be paid more than £20 per call when it ran the old 0845 number. The payment was between £7 and £9 per call for the new 111 service - and call volumes were lower than expected.

Projections reported earlier this year showed NHS Direct had lost £2.8m from April to June and was heading for a deficit of £26m if it continued until March.

It will cease to exist at the end of the financial year.

NHS Direct chair Joanne Shaw said the organisation should be proud of the innovation it had championed as it had helped pioneer "remote assessment, advice and information".

The NHS Direct group in Wales is unaffected.

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