The 111 non-emergency health telephone service in Wiltshire has been described as a “disaster story".
Coun John Noeken, vice chairman of Wiltshire Council’s Health Select Committee, made his comments after the committee heard that Harmoni, the private firm operating 111, was still transferring more than the contracted number of calls to South Western Ambulance Service (SWAS) as 999 calls.
The committee, which met on Tuesday, heard that Harmoni was transferring nearly 20 per cent of calls to SWAS and at weekends this can double to 40 per cent, putting pressure on ambulance crews.
Paramedics have said that most 111 calls they are set to are inappropriate for an ambulance response. Harmoni’s contract states that ten per cent of calls can be transferred to SWAS.
Bosses at Wiltshire and Bath and North East Somerset Clinical Commissioning Groups issued a performance notice to Harmoni on February 18 because of concerns over its ambulance dispatch rates and also that the level of callers being passed to speak to a clinician for advice was below target.
Patrick Malcahy, associate director of commissioning for urgent care at Wiltshire CCG, told the committee that as a result of the notice Harmoni was talking to its staff at its call centre in Bristol about changing their rotas to meet the peaks in demand.
Councillors were not confident about Harmoni’s ability to rectify the areas of concern.
Coun Noeken said: “To my mind this is a disaster story. Do we have confidence that things are going to dramatically improve over coming weeks and months? I think my colleagues doubt it.
"I think we have to put this on a red alert so we can judge it at our next committee meeting.”