A number of 'serious' incidents involving use of the newly-launched, out-of-hours urgent care line NHS 111 are reportedly under investigation, at least three of which include the death of a patient.

NHS Direct, which runs some of the 111 lines for NHS England, has confirmed to the BBC that it is reviewing seven potentially serious incidents - including one unexpected patient death.

And according to Pulse Magazine, across the service (including other providers of NHS 111) at least 22 possibly serious incidents have been reported since its wider roll out.

Three cases involving patient deaths are being looked at, including that of a 47-year old who died from a suspected overdose after relatives used the NHS 111 service to request mental health assistance, it reports. 

NHS 111 has been plagued with problems since the start of its wider roll out last month, with delays and clinical failings, and there are growing concerns that in its current form the service is unable to function effectively, leaving patient safety at risk. 

Results of a survey obtained by The Independent - carried out in North-east England, which was one of the first to pilot NHS 111 - also indicates that doctors are far from happy with the new system.

Care deteriorating?

More than 60% cent of GPs surveyed described their experience of the urgent care line as "poor" or "very poor", while more than 80% said out-of-hours care had worsened since its launch, the paper reports.

A review of the service has already been announced and, according to the BBC, Dame Barbara Hakin, deputy chief executive of NHS England, has said further roll-out of NHS 111 is on hold until the group is satisfied it can operate effectively. 

Clare Gerada, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), said it is "extremely worrying that there is still so much uncertainty around the delivery and reliability of the advice provided by NHS 111 in some areas".

“We are also concerned that patients are losing confidence in the new service before it is even fully up and running," she added, and called on NHS England "to provide more reassurance about its effectiveness and ability to deliver the necessary standards of care for all patients using the service, right across England".