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Suicidal NHS callers were ‘put on hold’

SUICIDAL patients calling an NHS helpline were put on hold until they hung up, according to a report.

The Department of Health said it was urgently investigating the claims.

‘If any wrongdoing whatsoever is found, including criminal actions, we will want to see the police and relevant NHS regulators alerted as necessary,’ a spokesman said. He described the claims as ‘clearly completely unacceptable’ if found to be true.

An undercover reporter said call handlers were asleep or described themselves as ‘busy’ to avoid callers. Talking about a suicidal patient, one handler allegedly said: ‘She was crying and I was asking her stuff like, “Do you not really want to talk”, she was like, “No”… I put her on mute.’

The Sun reporter went undercover at the NHS 111 call centre at St Charles Hospital in Ladbroke Grove, west London, which provides 24-hour support for 11 London boroughs.

Simon Douglass, medical director of the service that runs the centre, said: ‘I would like to reassure patients and the communities that patient safety is, and always will be, our highest priority.’