IMPROVEMENTS are being made at Dorset’s troubled NHS 111 service but further progress is needed, according to inspectors.

During inspections last March the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found the helpline was poorly staffed and personnel were stressed and exhausted just weeks after a whistleblower released pictures of staff at the St Leonards call centre asleep at their desks.

A follow-up inspection in August found there had been improvements and in the latest visit in December 2016, the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust service which provides a 24-hour telephone helpline to a population of 1.3 million people living in Dorset, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, has made further improvements.

It is rated as ‘requires improvement’ overall and in providing effective and well-led services and ‘good’ for providing safe, caring and responsive services.

Professor Steve Field, chief inspector of general practice, said: “I am pleased that South Western Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust has continued to build on the progress that we had identified in our previous inspection.

“People who call the NHS 111 service are entitled to quick and easy access to healthcare advice and information, or access to urgent attention when that's appropriate.

“Previously we had been concerned that the triaging system was not good enough. Some people whose calls were urgent were not being assessed in relation to their medical needs in a timely manner.

“On this inspection we saw some excellent examples of good practice and improvements. But, we would now like to be confident that these measures are fully embedded. The trust themselves have recognised that their performance needs to improve further to achieve the expected standards for the NHS 111 service.

“We found that there were still some calls which were not dealt with promptly or effectively. The trust must continue to work on this – and monitor the performance of its call handlers to help them get this right.”