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NHS 111 number partly blamed for Medway hospital cues

Mark Devlin, chief exec Medway NHS Foundation Trust
Mark Devlin, chief exec Medway NHS Foundation Trust

Confusion around the new NHS 111 number may have added to the huge burden on hospitals, Medway’s hospital chief has admitted.

Hospitals across Kent declared a crisis a few weeks ago as they faced unprecedented patient numbers amid cold weather.

It was at the same time a non-urgent helpline, 111, replaced the Medway On Call Care phone line and NHS Direct.

Anonymous staff had already claimed newly-hired advisors for 111 would “rather be safe than sorry” and send more people to A&E.

An NHS spokesman strongly refuted the claim, saying advisors were given proper training.

But Medway Maritime Hospital chief executive Mark Devlin said: “It would be wrong to say it was the cause. It was a contributing factor.”

He explained: “We were under pressure before 111 was switched on. Whether it prolonged the pressure or added to it, who can say, but it has caused some confusion on a national basis and any new system takes some bedding-in time.”

He added: “I think Medway Maritime has coped very well. It’s to the credit of our staff.”

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