NHS 111 recruitment: 'Students targeted' in Kent

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Recruitment of students to work on the new NHS non-emergency telephone service in Kent has been criticised.

South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb), which runs Kent's service, has recruited 200 more call handlers.

However, it has been accused by Medway Council of targeting students, with not enough training offered to new recruits.

Secamb said some "targeted recruitment" had taken place, but no "particular demographic" had been recruited.

Labour's spokeswoman for health and community services at Medway Council, Teresa Murray, who also works at MidKent College, said the service wanted a flexible labour force.

"In my profession at the college we saw adverts coming in inviting young people to be recruited... when things started to go wrong at 111 it was obvious the eight weeks training that all of those workers had wasn't adequate," she said.

"Calls were getting dropped, people were being given information they were not happy with.

"As a result, although the ambulance service deny this, we've seen A&E admissions rise."

MidKent College, which has campuses in Medway and Maidstone, offers A-level and vocational courses for students aged 16 upwards.

'Patients at risk'

Strood GP Dr Julian Spinks, who is the vice chair of Kent Local Medical Committee, said call handlers should be medically trained.

"There is a danger that advice could be wrong and put patients at risk," he said.

"At the other end of the spectrum because they are having to err massively on the side of safety then patients end up being sent to A&E."

A spokeswoman for Secamb said it had worked hard to address any issues and concerns in the early stages of the new service's implementation.

She said: "This work has included the recruitment of additional staff to manage a much higher demand than was anticipated.

"We have now recruited to the majority of these additional posts. Many of the roles are part time and weekend roles which suit some groups of people.

"While some targeted recruitment will have taken place, we have no policy to recruit from any particular demographic. All roles were freely available for anyone to apply for via NHS jobs."

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