A new organisation is being sought to run the NHS 111 service, a helpline for medical emergencies not severe enough for 999, in Staffordshire.
It has not yet been decided whether the five-year contract, which is set to be awarded this summer, will cover Staffordshire alone or be extended to include the whole of the West Midlands.
Bids to run the programme are currently being assessed and decisions will be made by a panel of up to 50 people including GPs, health professionals, commissioners and patient representatives.
Residents in the areas are being promised that the new suppliers will deliver a much better service than their predecessor, which has been criticised for sending too many people to the Royal Stoke University Hospital’s struggling accident and emergency unit.
The helpline was designed to prevent too many people from attending A&E but Stoke-on-Trent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) investigated to find that 111 was actually sending 50 extra patients a daily to Royal Stoke’s A&E.
“We always planned to go out for a longer contract after two years,” claimed Staffs based GP Dr Chandra Kanneganti who is also a director at the Stoke-on-Trent CCG.
“However, the new specification ensures that any lesson of the past two years have been learned and there will be a better service for the next five years,” Dr Kanneganti added.
As part of its Five Year Forward View, NHS England is hoping to further develop the 111 service and provide better integration with A&E departments, GP out-of-hours services, urgent care centres and ambulance services.