STAFF at the town’s emergency GP out of hours service fear their jobs could be cut once a new phone line is set up next year.

Nurses, call handlers and reception staff work at the service, based at Warrington Hospital, which deal with patients who feel their illness cannot wait until their GP surgery re-opens in the morning, after a weekend or bank holiday and assess them over the phone.

But the introduction of the new 111 number in April 2013 has left many worried it could lead to redundancies and a poorer service.

A nurse from the town, who did not want to be named, said: “The public of Warrington will lose an amazing service next year with qualified nursing sisters dealing with their health needs being replaced by non nurses using a computer screen to triage their symptoms and advise them.

“Poor service will potentially cause threat to lives.

“It’s not an acceptable situation for all involved.”

The new phone service is being introduced to the town on April 11, 2013 and is for patients with urgent health problems that can not wait but not for patients in a life-threatening condition.

It has been described as a step underneath dialling 999.

A Warrington CCG spokesman said call handling staff and out of hours triage nurses will have an option to ‘TUPE transfer to NHS Direct’ which is a labour law protecting employees whose business is being transferred to another.

It means employees are not dismissed before or after the transfer unless there is an 'economic, technical or organisational' reason.

The spokesman added: “The decision to award NHS Direct the contract for the new NHS 111 service means that our out of hours call handling staff and out of hours triage nurses will have an option to TUPE transfer to NHS Direct to support the delivery of this service.

“We have set up monthly group information and consultation meetings with all affected staff.

“The NHS 111 service will make it easier for the public to access urgent healthcare and also drive improvements in the way in which the NHS delivers that care.”