Union calls on MPs to fight “disastrous” decision in East Anglia that will have knock-on effect across the country

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UNISON has warned that plans to close three NHS Direct call centres over the next three months will be a disaster for patients and staff.

The union has slammed the closure of centres in Norwich, Ipswich and Chelmsford. The centres employ around 100 people, the majority of which are nurses.

The move will not just hit East Anglia, but have a knock-on effect nationwide for patients relying on the vital service. The government is also refusing to guarantee contracts for NHS Direct, or the 111 emergency service.

General secretary Dave Prentis said: “This is a disaster for patients and staff and we are really worried that this is the thin end of the wedge. Although these cuts hit local areas, the knock-on effect will be felt across the country.

“NHS Direct staff are already pressed to breaking point during peak periods, when the call centres can deal with up to 30,000 calls a day. Less people on the phones will mean patients depending heavily on out of hours duty care and a rise in the numbers queuing at A&E. NHS Direct nurses will also struggle to find work elsewhere, with jobs being axed in the NHS.

“We call upon local MPs in the East Anglian towns affected to join us in urging the East of England Health Authority to reconsider its decision, as a matter of urgency.

“The government must guarantee contracts for NHS Direct and the 111 emergency service, rather than rush through plans that will have huge consequences.”


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