Sixteen West Midlands clinical commissioning groups will collaborate on a new integrated NHS 111 service.
The CCGs will also play a collaborative role in mobilising GP out of hours and urgent care services across a population of 4.6 million, after a raft of contracts worth up to £172m was awarded to several bidders.
NHS 111 has replaced the telephone triage and advice services provided by NHS Direct, NHS24 and local GP out-of-hours services.
Four providers have won new contracts for out of hours services in Birmingham South Central, Herefordshire, Sandwell and West Birmingham and Rugby.
The remaining areas have adapted existing out of hours contracts.
In providing the new service, the deal consist of two major new elements.
The first is a single NHS 111 service for the entire patch, and this is accompanied by an individual out of hours contract for each clinical commissioning group.
An overarching alliance contract links the 111 service to out of hours, with the intention of ensuring that services are more joined-up and integrated than is currently the case.
The first element of the new system will provide a single point of access for 111 services, ensuring that several aspects of the existing system can combine effectively.
Eight of the 16 CCGs involved in the new deal already had out of hours agreements in place, but have agreed to vary their contracts with current providers in order to deliver the fully integrated 111 service the government envisages.
Contracts will become active in November, and will be integrated with existing contractual terms through the alliance agreements that have been put in place.
The original procurement process relating to NHS 111 failed last year owing to a lack of any acceptable bids being made.
Commenting on the issue, Jonathan Leach, clinical lead for NHS 111 for the West Midlands CCGs, suggested that the new scheme will enable the NHS 111 service to be improved significantly.
“This model will bring closer working relationships between the urgent care system, the GP out of hours services, social care, the ambulance services and the NHS 111 service, ultimately aiming to provide service that benefits patients round the clock. The new service provides a single access point through the NHS 111 service which will direct patients to the right service for thier needs. The service redesign will enable earlier clinical assesment and advice through the introduction of a clinical hub.”
The NHS 111 service has been dogged with difficulties and delays since being launched in 2014.