Plans to bring together General Practitioners and NHS Direct, the phone in help line launched in 1998, are expected cut the out of hours work load of doctors by up to 50 %. This estimate is based on trials where GP Co-ops have worked in partnership with NHS Direct.The plan provides that patients will call a single NHS Direct number where a nurse will advise on the seriousness of their symptoms and guide them to the most appropriate course of action, which may be an ‘on call’ doctor. Where a doctor is required, the call will be passed on directly to the local contact point. Nurses will not offer diagnosis.
The initial phase of the implementation plan involves the development of pilot sites to demonstrate the benefits of close working between primary care, other stakeholders and NHS Direct. The pilots will identify best practice and work out responses to such issues as the content and monitoring of service level agreements, joint clinical governance and peak load management arrangements. Primary Care Groups and Trusts will be asked to produce implementation plans by September 2001.