Concerns have been expressed over the move of more than 20 telephone call takers for Northampton’s out-of-hours doctors service to Derbyshire.
Currently, NHS staff based in Cliftonville Road take calls from patients in Northamptonshire who need medical help, but whose local surgeries are closed.
But the company that employs the call takers on behalf of the NHS has lost out on a contract bid to Derbyshire Health United, which is expected to take over in April.
As part of the same deal, the firm will also run the new NHS 111 service for Northamptonshire, which patients will be able to dial from next month for urgent, but not life-threatening, cases.
A call handler said: “We have been told there will be jobs lost here but also experience of the local area will go too.
“Some of us have worked for the service for 20 years, which can be vital if people are injured or taken ill away from their home and we need to give directions.
“We can dispatch ambulances so local knowledge can be very important sometimes.”
South East Health, which currently runs the call takers, will continue to run the GP element of the out-of-hours service.
However, all calls to the service and NHS 111 will be taken in Derbyshire, where they will be assessed by experts and passed on to the appropriate NHS service.
NHS Northamptonshire said staff will be given the chance to transfer to Debyshire if they wished.
A current call handler said: “I don’t think many of us will be in a position to up sticks and leave within a month.
“We have families and homes here that can’t be just uprooted.”
“They can dress it up as a choice but effectively, we’re redundant unless we want to commute to Derbyshire every day.”
An NHS Northamptonshire spokeswoman said: “NHS 111 is part of a national campaign to ensure patients are directed to the right service as quickly as possible. It is a national requirement that the NHS 111 provider handles calls made between 6.30pm and 8am.
“As Derbyshire Health United were successful in the competitive tender process for the NHS 111 service in Northamptonshire, they will provide the call handling for out of hours calls from April 2013.”