Cabinet minister Lansley checkmates himself after issuing a threat to NHS Direct. A swift union response helped keep him in check.

Commenting on reports that Health Minister Andrew Lansley has denied plans to shut down NHS Direct, Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON, said:

"This is great news for patients and for staff at NHS Direct.  The service
that NHS Direct offers is tried and tested and is of great value to the
public, as the outcry over the threat of closure shows. The service provides
a reassuring voice for worried parents in the middle of the night and is a
well of advice that the public can tap into 24 hours a day. Andrew Lansley
should not have put nurses and staff in fear of their jobs.

"I am sure staff will still be confused and worried that the Government may
have another change of heart.  I would like a guarantee from the health
minister that the 1,300 nurses working for NHS Direct will still have a job
there this time next year."

Michael Walker, UNISON national Officer for NHS Direct Staff, said:

"This sounds like fantastic news and a victory for common sense.  It shows
the effectiveness of the Unions campaign against the threat to axe NHS
Direct. There has been a real ground swell of opposition from the public,
with thousands of people signing a petition against the closure.

"The service employs 3,400 NHS dedicated specialist nurses and professionals
and provides expert help - taking more than 27,000 calls a day.  It
successfully takes the pressure off the emergency services and from busy GP

"However, I think we still need to be vigilant.  I want to hear more detail
of Andrew Lansley's announcement today, to make sure that staff and the
valuable service they provide, are truly protected in the longer term."

"UNISON congratulates NHS Direct staff and their union reps for getting behind the campaign and making their views known to the public"