NHS 111 First: bigger, better, and around-the-clock

The local NHS 111 First service has been expanded to offer patients more options for accessing urgent and same day care than ever before. That means that anyone wanting urgent help or advice for anything – illness or injury – which isn't a medical emergency can contact NHS 111 First, and get the help they need.

The recent developments to the service mean that more people living in the area will benefit from an improved response from the NHS, making sure patients see the right health care professional for their needs at the first time of asking.

Every patient contacting NHS 111 who might need the Emergency Department (ED) is assessed by a clinician who can provide advice, or direct them to the most appropriate service for their needs. They have a wide range of options available – it could mean providing advice or a prescription over the phone, arranging an admission to hospital, booking patients into same day clinic slots, arranging for them to see a GP or a pharmacist face to face, booking into the minor injuries clinic in Andover, or attending the Emergency Department in Basingstoke or Winchester.

If the patient is advised they need to see someone in person – whether in ED, or anywhere else – they are then booked directly into a time slot rather than simply being advised what to do. This is possible because all providers of urgent healthcare are now working together in a way they never have before, to offer joined up and integrated care to patients who need a same day service.

(Note – for anyone who faces a life threatening medical emergency, rather than wanting help or advice quickly, the advice remains the same as ever: call 999. The NHS 111 First service is not for life threatening emergencies.)

Contacting NHS 111 and getting a timed slot to arrive at the Emergency Department not only reduces the amount of time people need to wait to get the help they need, it supports hospital staff to be able to care for everyone who comes through the doors in the right way. It also helps to avoid overcrowding in waiting rooms, and helps maintain social distancing.

The more people who use NHS111 First before coming to ED, the better the service will be – that is why the local NHS asks that, for any life threatening medical problem, people should call 999, but for all other urgent concerns they should call NHS111 First.

John Black, Medical Director at South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS), said: “All partners have worked at pace to set this service up in North and Mid Hampshire, and the early signs are encouraging.

“Now the challenge is to expand the service so that more people can use it, and to make contacting NHS 111 the natural first port of call for anyone who has a worry about their health, and want advice or treatment quickly.”

Dr Nicola Decker, clinical lead for North and Mid Hampshire, in the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Partnership of Clinical Commissioning Groups, said: “We have known for years that many people find it hard to know which urgent care option to choose, and that's understandable – the system has become complicated, and hard to navigate.

“The more we can encourage people to use NHS 111 First, the better it will be for all of us. For patients it can cut down waiting times, and simplify the decision-making – let us decide where you need to be, and book you in. And for staff, it means that we can better manage when patients turn up, so we can give better, less rushed care.”

Dr Jen Joiner, ED consultant at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We believe this new service is a win-win for both patients, and NHS staff..

“This is all about making sure you get the care you need in the right place, at the right time. Using NHS 111 first you remove the guesswork of where you need to go, and don't need to wait around in a busy emergency department – which is not only more convenient, but safer as well.”

 “We started this service at the end of October, just for minor injuries, but everything has gone well to date so we are keen to increase the number of patients we are able to help using this service each day.NHS111 First also has the advantage of being able to access patient notes, which is a key tool for clinicians trying to assess the best course of action for the patient.

NHS 111, the non-emergency number medical helpline, is operated in North and Mid Hampshire by the South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. It can be contacted for free by phone, or online at 111.nhs.uk.