Health bosses have delayed the full roll out of the 111 non-emergency telephone service in Wiltshire after blunders by the private firm Harmoni.

The firm has been running the 111 service during evenings and weekends for the past five weeks. Operators in Harmoni’s call centre in Bristol, have been sending ambulances to patients with minor ailments such as sore throats and hiccups.

As a result South Western Ambulance Service has put on extra ambulances to cope with the increased demand. A paramedic in Wiltshire has said they feared the situation could lead to patients who were genuine emergencies losing out.

Harmoni was due to start operating 111 24/7 on March 19 but after a meeting between them and NHS Wiltshire, NHS Bath and North East Somerset (PCTS), Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group and Bath and North East Somerset CCG, the start date has been put back a month.

A spokesman for the PCTs and CCGs said: “The CCGs and PCTs will continue to work with the provider to ensure the contract is delivered to a satisfactory level as soon as possible and will continue to support Harmoni working with other stakeholders to put in place all necessary contingency arrangements for the coming weeks.

“The organisations will keep the situation under constant review until we are satisfied that an optimal and sustainable level of service has been achieved. We remain committed to making our service with our partner Harmoni a success.”

Harmoni did not wish to comment on the decision to delay operating 111 24/7 but in an earlier statement said: “The NHS 111 is a major new service development, involving significant change to a number of existing services. The start of this service locally, as in other parts of the country, has created some areas where we have yet to achieve the high levels of service we will meet over time. We are working with all of our partners to address these issues.

“The NHS 111 Service uses NHS Pathways which is a new way to assess a patient’s symptoms and is being used nationally by all NHS 111 providers. This change in method has led to an initial increase in calls to the ambulance service. As the new services are bedded in nationally, we expect the number of calls to the ambulance service to reduce over time.”

NHS Wiltshire awarded the contract for 111 to Harmoni. Harmoni, which is part of Care UK, will be paid £6.5 million over the next five years.