UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Mayday, Mayday, Action to protect NHS Direct

UNISON members in the South West are holding a ‘work-in’ in protest against the Government’s plans to replace NHS Direct with a service that has not been properly evaluated.

From midnight last night until to midnight tonight, NHS Direct staff in Exeter are staging a ‘work-in’, with extra staff voluntarily coming in, in their own time, to help staff the NHS Direct phone lines.

The protest is over the roll out of the 111 service which will replace NHS Direct. The union is deeply concerned that the roll out has not been properly evaluated, and could compromise the level of out of hours service that patients receive, as well as pile extra pressure onto other NHS services such as A&E and GP surgeries.

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.

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.”

Michael Walker, UNISON National Officer, said: “UNISON nurses and health advisors will be taking action on Mayday today, to urge the Department of Health to stop the roll out of the proposed 111 service until it has been fully evaluated.

“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.

“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 and other health organisations 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.