OVER 25 out-of-hours nurses in Gainsborough are to be cut and replaced with a call centre service.
From April 1st, triage nurses who operate the out-of-hours GP telephone answering service will no longer be provided by healthcare professionals and will be replaced by the new 111 service.
However, critics of the change have argued that there is a serious risk that this will impact on the quality of patient care outside of normal surgery hours because the service will be taken over by less qualified personnel from outside the area.
One of the nurses said that all triage nurses had been told that other positions would be found for them within the county.
“We are absolutely gutted,” she said.
“There are 26 permanent staff and another 20 banked staff and our jobs have just gone – they will no longer exist from 1st April.”
“I’ve been doing this for years and now our jobs are gone right out of the blue.”
“We’re concerned because we’ve done this job for such a long time because we are qualified, and now it will just become a call centre and people won’t get the same quality of care.”
She added: “There has been no local consultation – this has been a unilateral decision without discussion with any other group, particularly patient representatives.”
Julie Connolly from the Royal College of Nursing in Lincolnshire, said: “Some of the staff have understandable questions and anxieties about the future of the service and the quality of patient care when the 111 service takes over in a few weeks’ time.”
“The new provider must ensure that standards of quality and safety are protected and that the clinical expertise of staff providing the service is safeguarded in the interests of patients.”
However, a spokesman from NHS Lincolnshire said that the 111 number will give direct connection to a team of highly-trained advisers who are supported by experienced nurses.
They continued: “This element of the service is currently provided from two bases in the county, Lincoln and Gainsborough.
“This group of staff are highly valued within the organisation and the management team have been planning as a priority the potential redeployment opportunities for staff in order to retain these skills in Lincolnshire.”
“The triage nurses are currently being consulted with on the change in service and staff were advised in person on the 9th February that their posts were being put at risk. We are now working through the process of a 30 day consultation period in accordance with employment legislation.”
They added: “During this period staff are being supported by their relevant union representatives who are working in partnership with the management team throughout the process. This will include individual discussion with staff to explore all other employment opportunities currently available.”