Sheffield NHS call handlers’ jobs are safe, bosses pledge

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HEALTH bosses have reassured workers at a Sheffield NHS call centre their jobs will be safe when the service is switched to a new operator.

NHS Direct, which runs a telephone advice centre on Atlas Way, Attercliffe, has not won a contract to deliver a new 111 advice service when it is introduced next April.

Some 56 nurses, health advisors and frontline supervisors will be transferred to the new service, which is to be run instead by Yorkshire Ambulance Service and out-of-hours healthcare providers Local Care Direct.

Three other members of staff will continue to work for NHS Direct, which is providing services for other parts of the country.

The future is unclear for 15 agency nurses employed at the centre.

Nurses’ union representatives have raised ‘deep reservations’ about the new service - and claim a third of callers will not have the opportunity to speak to clinically-qualified staff.

Kevin Austerberry, regional director for the Royal College of Nursing, said: “We are bitterly disappointed NHS Direct has lost the new contract for providing 111 services. It has an excellent record of service.

“The RCN will now be working closely with members in Sheffield to ensure those who transfer to the new employers will be guaranteed the best possible terms, and any nurses who face redundancy are supported through this worrying process.”

Nick Chapman, chief executive of NHS Direct, said: “We have agreed with the Department of Health to transfer relevant staff - including health advisors and nurses - to the successful providers of NHS 111.

“We will now be following through with this approach in Yorkshire and the Humber to preserve the highly valued skills and experience of our staff in this region.

“This is an important agreement as it will avoid unnecessary redundancy, protect the public purse and ensure continuity of service for patients.”

David Whiting, chief executive of Yorkshire Ambulance Service, said: “Our partnership of an ambulance service and out-of-hours provider creates a firm and experienced foundation for safe, effective and integrated patient care.

“We are looking forward to implementing our plans for the services and, working together, we will deliver a high quality and responsive service for patients needing urgent care in Yorkshire.”