Bid withdrawn for NHS non-emergency line
PLANS for a new NHS 111 number have been dealt a blow – as the preferred provider has pulled out.
Devon Doctors Ltd has withdrawn its bid to operate the non-emergency line locally for "commercial" reasons.
The number – for patients with urgent but not life-threatening symptoms – is due to be rolled out across the country by October 2013.
Devon Doctors and South Western Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust (SWAST) were announced as the preferred providers for call handling and triage elements of the service in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay last month.
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The deal was subject to contract finalisation.
Chris Wright, Devon Doctors chief executive, said they entered negotiations with a view to concluding the contract.
He said: "Unfortunately, commercial considerations meant that Devon Doctors was not in a position to proceed and it has, therefore, withdrawn its bid to operate the service.
"At the same time, Devon Doctors remains fully committed to the principles of NHS 111 and, in its role as provider of the county's out-of-hours service, looks forward to working with the organisation which is awarded the contract to ensure the people of Devon benefit from a first-class healthcare service."
A South Western Ambulance Service Trust spokesperson said they were not in a position to comment.
NHS Devon, Plymouth and Torbay said the contract had been provisionally awarded to Devon Doctors following a competitive tendering process.
An NHS spokesman said: "There is a period of time following a provisional contract award when both parties move to conclude the contract. Devon Doctors Ltd concluded that they were unable to meet the requirements of the NHS 111 contract for Devon and have subsequently withdrawn their bid.
"As a result, the award of the NHS 111 contract for Devon has been delayed and alternative options are being considered."
The Department of Health last week announced the deadline for 111 nationally was being extended from April 2013 so areas could have more time to introduce the service.
Doctors' leaders – who had in the past expressed "serious concerns" about the speed of the rollout – welcomed the delay.
In the short-term, the service will run alongside NHS Direct, but it will eventually become the single number for non-emergency care.