Hotline brings in more staff
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.