There are some changes taking place across the country with respect to the best numbers to call in order to obtain non-emergency medical help. Specifically, the NHS Direct helpline has been replaced with a new NHS 111 service.
What is NHS 111?
The new NHS 111 service is available 24 hours a day and 365 days a year, and is designed to cater for ‘urgent but not life threatening’ situations where medical advice or support is required. Calls to NHS 111 are handled by a team of highly trained call advisers, supported by experienced clinicians. Using an appropriate clinical assessment system, questions are asked to assess callers’ needs and determine the most appropriate course of action without the need for re-triage.
This includes ambulance dispatch, referral to a service within the NHS, referral to an alternative service, and information advice and reassurance including self-care. 999 will still remain the number to call for life threatening matters where an ambulance is urgently needed, however, for those situations that aren’t strictly an emergency, NHS 111 is the best option.
How will NHS 111 work?
NHS 111 will essentially replace the triage and advice services that were previously provided by the NHS Direct helpline. As of the end of November 2013 the former NHS Direct helpline number (0845 46 47) will be switched off in the West Midlands and instead the number to call will be simply ‘111.’ This number can be called from any landline or any mobile free of charge and is available around the clock. Anyone who tries to call the old NHS Direct helpline number after it has been switched off will be advised to hang up and redial 111.
Will there be a gap left by the NHS Direct helpline?
No, essentially NHS 111 will provide the same service – you will be asked to provide details of your condition, or the condition of the person you are calling about, and the best course of action will be assessed. The NHS 111 operators can call an ambulance if they feel it is necessary and have gone through the appropriate triage pathways.
When will 111 commence?
The NHS 111 service is being rolled out across the country and will be the sole number for non-emergency medical advice in the West Midlands from the end of November 2013.