THE county’s NHS 111 service has been thrown a lifeline.

Contracts have now been signed for West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) to step in and lead on the service from November 11.

This follows contract negotiations over the future for the service after NHS Direct withdrew.

WMAS is being asked to deliver the 111 service across the Black Country, Birmingham, Solihull, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Coventry and Warwickshire.

Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (HCCG) had been in talks with WMAS as the “preferred provider” of the service after NHS Direct pulled out.

Herefordshire had been identified as one part of the West Midlands NHS area where WMAS could be a partner in providing 24/7 111 cover from a call centre in Dudley.

NHS England, however, has confirmed that there will be no central funding to support CCGs in setting up new and replacement services.

Each CCG has been advised that it needs to commit up to the planned contract value of NHS 111 which stands at around £15.3 million across the West Midlands.

NHS Direct encountered significant problems when it launched in March this year and withdrew from contracts within months as they proved to be financially unsustainable.

The NHS Direct 0845 46 47 telephone number will be switched off at the end of November in the West Midlands region and callers will be advised to hang up and re-dial NHS111 which is a free service.