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Call for delay in NHS 111 rollout

The BMA has called for a delay in the rollout of the NHS 111 phoneline, citing concerns that the service still needs much more work.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has voiced "serious concerns" about the rollout of the NHS 111 phoneline in England, BBC News health editor Caroline Parkinson reports.

The doctors’ group says that the new helpline, which assists patients with urgent, but not life-threatening symptons, may put more strain on existing services.

According to the BBC, the government said it would consider the issues raised by the BMA.

The service is planned for full rollout in April 2013 but currently operates in Luton, County Durham and Darlington, Lincolnshire, Nottingham City, the Isle of Wight and parts of Derbyshire and Lancashire.

The BMA says that doctors in the pilot areas had faced "a number of serious problems and concerns".

BMA's GPs committee chairman Dr Laurence Buckman in an interview with the BBC said: "In Shropshire, GPs are worried that patients will actually receive lower quality care as the clinicians who triage all calls to their out-of-hours provider are to be replaced by non-clinicians when NHS 111 takes over."

Buckman added that without a delay in the rollout the government could end up implementing “something which doesn't work to the benefit of all patients”.

Health union Unison, ambulance services and nurses have also echoed the BMA's concerns about the plans.

Public Health minister Anne Milton told the BBC that: "The BMA supports the principles of the NHS 111 service - it will benefit patients by improving access to NHS services and ensuring they get the right care at the right time.

"We will consider the BMA's concerns. We agree that any long-term decision should bemade with full approval from local commissioning groups. They should be fully engaged with the approach to delivering NHS 111