West Midlands Ambulance Service is to hand back the 111 contract it provides for the majority of the West Midlands to commissioners. The Trust has taken the difficult decision as the service develops nationally and becomes an even more important part of the NHS.
Part of this development will involve a move towards closer working between the NHS111 service across the East and West Midlands integrating the two areas into a single shared model, which mirrors the increasing collaboration across some other regions in England.
NHS Black Country Integrated Care Board (ICB), after a competitive process, have awarded the contract to DHU Healthcare, initially covering an 18-month period. DHU already operate the East Midlands contract, are rated ‘Outstanding’ by the CQC and are a not for profit, social enterprise and community interest company.
West Midlands Ambulance Service Chief Executive, Anthony Marsh, said: “As the focus of our emergency and urgent service is based on the West Midlands only, and the move in 111 is to move to a regional basis, it makes sense to step back and allow a new 111 provider to take the service to the next level.
“What is important is that patients will not see any change in the way they access NHS111 across the East and West Midlands.
“As a Trust we will also be able to concentrate on making the improvements necessary to improve our 999 service. As such, we feel a new 111 provider will be able to embed the changes in telephony that are set to be introduced which will allow the 111 service to develop further.
Mr Mark Axcell, CEO Black Country ICB: “The 111 service is a hugely important part of the NHS and is constantly being developed and enhanced so that it can help more people. We were notified by West Midlands Ambulance Service of their intention to step away from the current contract and we are now mobilising plans with a new provider DHU Healthcare to step into this contract.
“We are confident that the new provider will be in place ahead of the winter period and that they will work with WMAS to ensure a smooth transition. Those using the NHS 111 service in the West Midlands will continue to be able to access the service as usual.”
Stephen Bateman, Chief Executive at DHU comments: “Our 111 service has a well-deserved outstanding rating from the Care Quality Commission, and we look forward to a close partnership with West Midlands Ambulance Service to transition this contract. Our intention is to build on the exceptional service they have grown over the last three years, and to support the staff who join us. We know they deliver compassionate, high-quality patient care and we welcome the knowledge, skills and experience they will bring to our DHU family.”
Mr Marsh added: “This change should not be seen as any reflection on our staff who continue to work incredibly hard to provide the highest quality patient care – our service is one of the highest performing in the country. The team help thousands of people every day and they should all be immensely proud of what they have achieved.
“We understand this change will be an unsettling time for staff so we will be working with individuals and their representatives as further information becomes available about how DHU will run the contract. We will work with them and Commissioners to minimise disruption for staff and patients alike.”
WMAS Integrated Emergency, Urgent Care and Performance Director, Jeremy Brown said: “Our 111 staff have played a hugely important role in the way the NHS responded to COVID over the last two years.