South Western Ambulance Service ends Dorset NHS 111 contract

Image caption The ambulance service said it would hand back its contract

An ambulance trust has announced it is pulling out of providing the NHS 111 phone service, blaming staff shortages.

South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust said it would hand back its contract to Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust (DHC).

The ambulance trust said it would continue to run the phone line with no break in service while a new operator was sought over the next few months.

It added the "resilience" of its service had been an issue.

The advisors on the 111 phone service provide information on local health services or connections to a nurse or GP.

The telephone helpline for Dorset was rated as "good" by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in 2018.

Queuing calls

In a statement, the ambulance trust said it did not have other call centres to take queuing calls for its Dorset service in "times of extremis".

"The service has struggled to maintain the staffing levels needed to operate this Dorset-based service alongside the 999 emergency services operated by South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust across the South West."

It said DHC would be trying to find a new provider for the service and discussions were under way with unions and the 216 staff affected at the call centre in St Leonards.

DHC said it would be identifying a new provider with the aim of continuing to provide "a locally run service operated by local staff".

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