Local company to operate The Silver Line and create jobs
Last year Esther Rantzen CBE, who founded children’s helpline ChildLine in 1986, launched The Silver Line and Fylde Coast based FCMS have been chosen as preferred provider against stiff competition as the company to handle telephone calls for the whole of the UK when the full service is rolled out to the rest of the country later this year
The Silver Line aims to offer callers a one-stop telephone number to call whereby lonely, older people in our communities can ring up to speak to someone who understands their problems, can provide information on a variety of subjects, or just be there for a chat. The service provides signposting that links people into various services that exist around the country and a telephone befriending scheme that matches callers with a Silver Line Friend and offers a weekly telephone call. Many older people are reluctant to ask for advice about where to go for support and how to access services and instead live in isolation – and that is what this project aims to stop.
The national story about the concept of The Silver Line broke last year, just at the time when FCMS heard that they had lost the NHS 111 call handling contract to national provider NHS Direct. Staff at the call centre on Whitegate Drive were devastated at the news about 111 and the impact that it would have throughout the business.
Suzy Layton, Chief Executive explains “NHS 111 had been a core of our call handling operation – we’d been doing an excellent job with dedicated staff with local knowledge and everyone knew at that time that losing the contract would be a problem to the business going forward. The staff met and brainstormed a list of 72 business ideas for the future, to compensate for the loss of this one important contract.
“Whilst looking at the viability of these 72 ideas, FCMS heard about The Silver Line, and sent a speculative letter to Esther Rantzen explaining our company ethos and abilities and how we felt that we could add a huge amount to their project. Twelve months and a lot of hard work later, we received notification that we had been named as preferred provider for the Silver Line contract, almost a year after the news of losing NHS 111”
FCMS is a Social Enterprise, a business which provides medical services to the NHS, and invests in the community which it serves. The relationship between FCMS and The Silver Line was a meeting of minds and values, and a sharing of ethos – right from the start.
FCMS were initially asked to handle a three month pilot for evening , overnight and bank holiday call handling for the first trial region which was Greater Manchester and the Isle of Man. At this point, The Silver Line project was being managed by one person on the team, and the proactive way in which FCMS supported them, handled the account and helped to shape and develop the service meant that the Fylde Coast area was quickly included in the pilot, and the trial never ended.
As with any process of this nature, tendering for the permanent contract involved various rounds, culminating in presentations to The Silver Line in London, which was where FCMS really won the day with not only a solid proposition but their passion and commitment. Suzy added “Of course we have developed a solid commercial proposition for our service to The Silver Line, but for us it’s about the person on the other end of the phone. We took one of our call handlers to the interview and she told real stories about how her conversations with callers really made a difference, and about the reality of how the service helps them. For The Silver Line, our attitude and values won the day.”
When signed, the new contract will see FCMS providing round the clock call handling for the whole of the UK, a service which will create around 100 new jobs for the Fylde Coast. “This is a huge achievement and great news for everyone” said Suzy “We’ll be having a big recruitment drive starting from week commencing 12th August for new call handlers at our Whitegate Drive Centre and a new centre which will be opening in Wesham at the PCT building in November.
Help Line number: 0800 328 8888