Hot­line brings in more staff

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Kent Business Update -

Kent’s chaos-hit new NHS phone hot­line has had to hire 200 ex­tra staff af­ter it failed to pre­dict a huge de­mand, it has been re­vealed.

The non-emer­gency 111 num­ber was switched on in March as a one-stop-shop for peo­ple with mi­nor ail­ments across Kent, Med­way, Sur­rey and Sus­sex. But in its first five week­ends about half of call­ers were hang­ing up in frus­tra­tion be­cause they couldn’t get through.

Man­agers were ex­pect­ing peaks of about 600 calls on Satur­days and 400 on Sun­days, but the re­al­ity was vastly more, at 800 calls on Satur­days and 650 on Sun­days. Now the hot­line has had to put an ex­tra 200 staff through a 10-week train­ing pro­gramme at a high, but as yet undis­closed, cost.

Geraint Davies, di­rec­tor of com­mer­cial ser­vices at the South East Coast Am­bu­lance Ser­vice NHS Foun­da­tion Trust, which runs 111 with the pri­vate firm Har­moni, said: “There were in­suf­fi­cient peo­ple in the room to pick up the phone.

“Un­for­tu­nately, the plans we had didn’t meet the ac­tual de­mand be­ing placed on the ser­vice when we went live.”

He said now if there is a spike in de­mand, 111 can use 999 call han­dlers.

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