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Notts patients benefit from NHS 111

Tuesday 23 July sees the official launch of the NHS 111 telephone number across Nottinghamshire making it easier for the public to access urgent health care services. NHS 111 is a free telephone service that has been running in Nottingham City since November 2010 and was switched on for patients in the north of the county in March 2013. Health officials are now urging the public from across the county to have full confidence in the service as it is officially unveiled to Nottinghamshire’s 984,839 population.

Dr Trevor Mills, Nottingham GP and the NHS 111 clinical lead for the county said: “Although there were some initial problems with the service around Easter, we’ve done a lot of work with Derbyshire Health United, who operate and deliver the 111 service across much of the East Midlands, and the experience for callers has improved enormously. The public response has been good and patients in the county have not had the same level of issues as those in many other parts of the UK.”

NHS 111 provides urgent health advice and guidance when the situation does not warrant 999. Outside normal surgery hours it suits those who feel they cannot wait for their GP practice to open. At all times of day the NHS 111 provides people with timely access to healthcare services, via a free to call, easy to remember three-digit number, 111. The service assess callers’ needs to make sure they are directed to the right NHS service, first time using a clinically developed and comprehensive directory of NHS services.

The new service was launched after the NHS identified that the public often find it confusing knowing where to turn to for help in non-emergency situations. At the same time, the NHS in the East Midlands continues to experience year on year increases in 999 calls and A&E attendances. Currently many of the calls to 999 are for things that are neither serious nor immediately life threatening.

NHS 111 is not a direct replacement of the service previously provided by NHS Direct as Dr Mills explains further:

“NHS 111 has been developed over several years with significant clinical input. It works differently to NHS Direct in that patients are assessed using a flow chart of carefully structured questions which asses the patients’ symptoms and concerns. After the series of questions the comprehensive directory of NHS services would identify which service is most appropriate for the patient’s needs – for example patient may be referred to their GP surgery, local out of hours GP service, nearest Emergency Department, dentists, nearest pharmacies or if the problem is identified as very serious and needing emergency help, the system would trigger an automatic transfer to the ambulance service”.

Patients across Nottinghamshire have had access to the service since March 2013. In that time, 93% of the 50,000 calls received have been answered within 60 seconds.
A retired GP from Nottinghamshire praised the questioning the system used to help him when he contacted the service with on-going stomach cramps. Another Nottinghamshire resident rang the service with back pain and call actually called back to thank the advisor who handled her call.

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