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NHS England relaunches 111 helpline for £33m

In a bid to ensure the service can continue after April next year, NHS England is re-procuring the telephony services for the NHS 111 telephony advice service.

The April 2013 launched NHS 111 is intended to give advice in urgent yet non life-threatening situations, but its contracts expire in 2015 - meaning re-procurement is now essential.

In July 2013, NHS England announced that it wanted to withdraw from all current 111 contracts as they were proving to be “financially unstable.”

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This initially put the future of the service in jeopardy, but now the organisation is seeking approval to seek new telephony contracts predicted to be worth £33 million.

“The timeline to achieve this re-procurement is challenging, and any slippage will impact on the set-up and test phase and create a significant risk of loss of business continuity for the NHS 111 service,” claimed a board paper by NHS England.

The new contracts are expected to cover a telephony system that redirects calls to 111 to the appropriate local NHS providers.

“By having this infrastructure in place it enables the public, no matter where they live or whatever their circumstances, to be able to call the service for free to meet their urgent health care needs,” said NHS England.

However, some commentators have claimed that the re-procurement will further waste taxpayer money.

“Another £33.3m of precious NHS resource wasted because civil servants, health service managers and others advising ministers refused to listen to or transmit the profession’s expert opinion that the system was set up to fail,” claimed Dr Peter Holden, a British Medical Association GP Committee negotiator.