Hundreds of NHS Direct staff have been told that they face losing their jobs, it has been revealed.
NHS Direct, which had been a provider to non-urgent emergency phone line NHS 111 before pulling out in June due to financial problems, wrote to around 500 employees to let them know they are at risk of redundancy by the end of March.
The organisation announced that it will close at the end of the financial year after projecting a £26 million deficit.
NHS Direct currently employs 700 workers. Around 200 will be transferred to patient service jobs with other providers.
An NHS Direct spokeswoman said: “We are seeking to mitigate as many redundancies as possible by supporting these staff to find alternative employment within the wider NHS.
“At this stage we do not know what the final number of redundancies will be as it is dependent on several factors including the number of ‘at risk’ staff who obtain suitable alternative employment elsewhere.”
Most staff facing redundancy are not currently working on the NHS 111 service, spokeswoman claimed.
But Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing said that at 158 nursing staff at NHS Direct would lose their jobs.
He said: “This is sad news indeed for the individuals affected, and could to lead to patients seeing their NHS 111 service stretched even further.
"After the dismantling of NHS Direct, we've been left with a fragmented, localised NHS 111 service that offers uncertainty and inconsistency across many parts of the country.
"Soon we're going to lose another 158 skilled nursing staff from a system that is already struggling to cope.
"What we need to see is investment into the service to get it up to standard and retain skilled nursing staff, not let them go.”