Rollout of new NHS non-emergency line '111' is delayed
The launch of 111, the UK’s National Health Service’s (NHS) new non-emergency phone number, has been delayed by six months.
111 was due to go live in April 2013, and it has been designed as an alternative to the 999 emergency number, specifically for patients with non-life threatening symptoms.
However, the Department of Health (DoH) in the UK has confirmed the rollout has been postponed to October next year, to give areas more time to prepare for the service.
The move has been praised by the British Medical Association (BMA), who were concerned things were moving too quickly and could have had an impact on patient care.
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The Chairman of the BMA, Dr Laurence Buckman, said: “The decision to delay implementation of NHS 111 by up to six months in areas where more developmental work is still needed is a welcome one.
“We have been pressing the Secretary of State to allow a delay for some time.
“The principle behind NHS 111 - making patient access to urgent NHS services easier - is a good one,” he affirmed.
“Unfortunately, the speed of the rollout was putting this at risk.
“Hopefully now there will be sufficient time to ensure local clinicians are properly involved so services can be designed that will be safe, reliable and genuinely benefit patients.”
However, the areas that have already introduced the service will be able to continue operating it.
If a patient calls the 111 number, the operator will be able to one of three of four things; call an ambulance, transfer the caller to a nurse, put them through to a pharmacist or dentist or book them an out-of-hours doctor’s appointment.
The operators of the 111 line will be trained just as the 999 operators are in the UK, and the service will eventually replace the NHS Direct helpline facility.
Commenting on the decision to delay the launch, Health Minister, Simon Burns said: “NHS 111 is being introduced to make it easier for people to get the health care advice they need or to get to the right health care service, first time.
“It is essential that local groups of GPs are engaged in the implementation of this new service to ensure that NHS 111 fits within a comprehensive local 24/7 urgent health system, that meets patient needs.
"After listening to local CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) and other stakeholders we have agreed to offer, for those areas that need it, an extension of up to six months to the completion date for the national rollout of NHS 111.”
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Skin Analytics wins NHSX award for AI skin cancer tool
An artificial intelligence-driven tool that identifies skin cancers has received an award from NHSX, the NHS England and Department of Health and Social Care's initiative to bring technology into the UK's national health system.
NHSX has granted the Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care Award to DERM, an AI solution that can identify 11 types of skin lesion.
Developed by Skin Analytics, DERM analyses images of skin lesions using algorithms. Within primary care, Skin Analytics will be used as an additional tool to help doctors with their decision making.
In secondary care, it enables AI telehealth hubs to support dermatologists with triage, directing patients to the right next step. This will help speed up diagnosis, and patients with benign skin lesions can be identified earlier, redirecting them away from dermatology departments that are at full capacity due to the COVID-19 backlog.
Cancer Research has called the impact of the pandemic on cancer services "devastating", with a 42% drop in the number of people starting cancer treatment after screening.
DERM is already in use at University Hospitals Birmingham and Mid and South Essex Health & Care Partnership, where it has led to a significant reduction in unnecessary referrals to hospital.
Now NHSX have granted it the Phase 4 AI in Health and Care Award, making DERM available to clinicians across the country. Overall this award makes £140 million available over four years to accelerate the use of artificial intelligence technologies which meet the aims of the NHS Long Term Plan.
Dr Lucy Thomas, Consultant Dermatologist at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, said: “Skin Analytics’ receipt of this award is great news for the NHS and dermatology departments. It will allow us to gather real-world data to demonstrate the benefits of AI on patient pathways and workforce challenges.
"Like many services, dermatology has severe backlogs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This award couldn't have come at a better time to aid recovery and give us more time with the patients most in need of our help.”