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New helpline puts patients at risk

The British Medical Association (BMA) has written to the chief executive of the NHS, to point out that the "chaotic mess" of the 111 service is potentially putting patients at risk, the Guardian reports.

It spoke of “widespread reports” of patients waiting hours for a call back or simply being unable to get through to an operator.

"We cannot sacrifice patient safety in order to meet a political deadline for the launch of a service that doesn't work properly," the BMA said.

Health minister Lord Howe said he was aware of problems in two particular areas, but said pilots of the new service showed a high rate of patient satisfaction.

The new 111 service is aimed at helping people who urgently need medical help or advice but are not facing a life-threatening 999 emergency.