You are here

CQC find improvements to NHS 111 services in Dorset and Cornwall but calls for further progress

17 November 2016
Trust HQ
  • Media

The Care Quality Commission has found that South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust has made improvements to its NHS 111 services.

Following an inspection in March 2016, CQC had issued a Warning Notice requiring the trust to ensure that calls were responded to in a timely and effective manner, with enough suitably qualified staff on duty who were supported to deal with the volume of calls. The service was rated Inadequate.

Inspectors returned to the trust in August 2016 to check on progress. A full report of the inspection has been published.

Previously, inspectors found that there were often not enough staff to take calls or to give clinical advice when that was needed. Too many calls were abandoned, and patients were waiting too long for their calls to be answered and to be assessed, or to receive a call back with appropriate advice.

During a three-day inspection in August, CQC found that the trust had taken positive steps to make improvements:

  • The trust had a clear vision that put improvement of service quality and safety as its top priority.
  • There were now systems in place to assess and monitor risks, and take action accordingly.
  • The trust had taken steps to increase the number of staff within the NHS 111 call centres.
  • More audits were being introduced to ensure all staff were following the NHS Pathways triaging system.
  • The trust had decided to stop using non-pathways advisors as call handlers to ensure that callers consistently receive the correct level of advice.

Inspectors have told the trust that it must monitor staff performance more closely to ensure the needs of callers are being correctly met. They must also reduce the levels of abandoned calls, and improve call answering times and time for call-back by a clinician.

Professor Steve Field, Chief Inspector of General Practice, said:

"I am satisfied that South Western Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust has made a real effort to deal with many of the concerns which we had found on our initial inspection.

“It is clear that there have been improvements in the trust’s strategic management and day to day running of the NHS 111 service. The trust has actively taken on board our previous findings, using their complaints and incidents as learning points as well as liaising with other 111 services.

“People who call the NHS 111 service are entitled to quick and easy access to healthcare advice and information, or access to urgent attention when that's appropriate. Although we have seen real signs of progress, there is still room for improvement. We remain concerned that there are still too many calls which are not dealt with promptly or effectively. The trust must continue to work on this – and monitor the performance of its call handlers to help them get this right.

“We will continue to monitor the service closely to ensure the improvements continue and the remaining issues are addressed."


For media enquiries, contact John Scott, Regional Engagement Manager (South) on 07789875809 or call the press office on 020 7448 9401 during office hours. Journalists wishing to speak to the press office outside of office hours can find out how to contact the team here. (Please note: the duty press officer is unable to advise members of the public on health or social care matters). For general enquiries, please call 03000 61 61 61.

Last updated:
29 May 2017

Notes to editors

At the time of the inspection in August the NHS 111 provided by South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust covered people living in Devon, Dorset, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.   Since 1 October the service to Devon has been taken over by another provider.   

NHS 111 is a telephone-based service where callers are assessed, given advice and directed to a local service that most appropriately meets their needs. This could be a GP service, walk-in centre or urgent care centre, community nurse, emergency dentist, emergency department, emergency ambulance, late opening pharmacy or home management.

About the Care Quality Commission

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of health and social care in England.

We make sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and we encourage care services to improve.

We monitor, inspect and regulate services to make sure they meet fundamental standards of quality and safety and we publish what we find to help people choose care.