FEARS have been raised over who patients can turn to for help as the crisis over NHS accident and emergency waiting times deepens.
Health bosses have revealed a ‘massive surge’ in demand for the 111 non-emergency phone service from people needing assistance.
Calls to the 24-hour line were up 40 per cent last month – with the total number of enquiries rocketing to 439,000 in just one week, double the usual tally.
Accident and emergency departments already face crippling demand – with Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth being put on ‘black alert’ as it cannot cope.
Gosport health spokesman Peter Edgar, who sits on Portsmouth’s Health Overview & Scrutiny Panel, said the reliability of the 111 service was poor.
‘I just don’t think the 111 service has ever been successful, I have always found it difficult to access and people have said the same thing to me,’ he said.
‘It doesn’t seem fit for purpose.’
Mr Edgar said other services like minor injury units may need rebranding as there is confusion among the public over their role.
‘It’s incredibly difficult at the moment for patients to decide who they can turn to,’ said Cllr Edgar.
‘I was involved for 10 years in the Save Haslar Hospital campaign and we pointed out what would happen if you replaced its A&E department with a minor injuries unit.’
‘Something which is minor to a doctor may not be minor in the eyes of the public.
‘A lot of people think their injuries are much more serious.’
But Ernest Foster, 86, of Emsworth, says he cannot praise the reliability of 111 enough after a paramedic came to his aid after he fell within 10 minutes of a call on Sunday.
‘He was here for close to an hour because I had no idea where I was,’ Mr Foster said. ‘He was brilliant.’
David Cameron has admitted the NHS is under pressure across the country at the moment.
Speaking to MPs yesterday, Mr Cameron said: ‘Our responsibility is to put in the money, which we are doing, to provide the extra staff, which is happening, to have a proper plan for joining up health and social care, which we are doing, and then to fund the Simon Stevens plan, which is the right long-term answer for our health service.’