AN out-of-hours patient service has hit problems after changes were introduced.
Several Primary Care Trust-run call centres for the NHS 111 service in the North West were shut down at midnight on Wednesday, with an NHS Direct call centre in Bolton taking over the service for the whole of Lancashire and South Cumbria.
The NHS 111 service was introduced for people to call when they need medical help fast but it is not a 999 emergency.
But the switch has caused long delays, and worried patients have been taking themselves to hospital instead.
A spokesman for the NHS said: “The NHS 111 service for the North West was ‘soft launched’ on Thursday, March 21, ahead of full public launch of the service in April.
“The soft launch period allows for any teething problems to be resolved before it goes fully live.
“It became clear there are some issues that need to be resolved with the NHS 111 out of hours call handling, which are being addressed ahead of the service being fully launched.
“We would ask people call their GP surgery during the evening and at weekends and follow the instructions given, if they need care out of normal working hours.”
A Department of Health spokesman said: “We are aware of issues that have occurred with the NHS 111 service handling out of hours calls in the North West.
“Until these issues are resolved people needing out of hours care should call their GP surgery and follow the instructions given.”