South Western Ambulance has announced it will be withdrawing from its contract to provide urgent care services across Dorset – including the NHS 111 service.

The contract will be handed back to the local health partnership, which is led by Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust (DHC).

Despite being given a ‘good’ CQC rating for NHS 111 in 2018, the service said it has struggled to maintain the staffing levels needed to operate this Dorset-based service alongside the 999 emergency services operated by SWASFT across the South West.

In particular, it says resilience is an issue as unlike many other providers of NHS 111, the ambulance trust does not have other call centres or 111 services to share the call queue or fall back to when it is fully stretched.

Over the next few months, South Western Ambulance Service says it will be working with DHC to agree a timetable for the transfer of services. DHC will undertake a process to identify a new provider for urgent care services in Dorset, including NHS 111. The aim is to make sure that Dorset continues to have a locally run service operated by local staff – the local health partnership is committed to achieving this.

A statement from the ambulance service said: "As a committed member of the Dorset local health partnership, SWASFT and DCH will work closely with all other members of the partnership to continue to provide a safe and reliable service for our patients and offer continued to support to the staff in order to achieve the best outcomes for everyone involved .

"Discussions are still at an early stage as to how and when this change will happen and more details will be shared when appropriate. SWASFT staff currently working on the Dorset contract have been informed of this decision and will be guided and supported through the transition period with full HR advice and Union consultations, together with one-to-one meetings."