“This proposal does not address this fundamental limitation and may make the situation worse,” he said. “What we should instead be doing is investing in having properly trained and appropriate clinical staff handling calls and requests from patients, complementing the use of new technologies.”
He said the app would rely “slavishly” on algorithms, rather than on clinical staff, which would leave no room for “clinical interpretation in certain instances”.
“Whilst it’s always important to maximise use of technology to empower patients and make efficient use of NHS resources, this initiative does not address the fundamental problem that we have a severe shortage of GPs and health professionals in community settings,” said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the British Medical Association GP committee chairman.
NHS 111 is designed as an alternative to the NHS’s non-emergency 111 helpline, which has seen an increase in demand from 2m to 15m calls a year in four years.
The technology uses an algorithm to run a chat service that will search a database of symptoms, before advising whether to see a GP, go to hospital, visit a pharmacy or stay at home.