Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Choice of 111 and 999 For Emergency Calls

By Sunil Patel

A new 24-hour non-emergency NHS number was launched in North East England today.

The 111 number will act as an alternative to calling 999, and will initially only be available to patients at pilot sites in County Durham and Darlington.

Further trials will follow at Nottingham City, Lincolnshire and Luton Primary Care Trust’s; if the NHS service is successful it will be rolled across the rest of the country.

The 111 service will provide immediate emergency health care to patients whose condition is not deemed life threatening.

It will be staffed 365 days a year by a team of fully trained advisors and supported by nurses who are on hand to ensure the callers’ needs are assessed as soon as possible.

Visiting the very first operational 111 call centre in the North East to talk to staff and patients about how the service is working, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: “It is essential that we improve access to, and understanding about, urgent care services.

“This includes out-of-hours care because at present, too many people are confused about who to contact and how to do so.”

“By putting in place one, easily memorable 111 number for all urgent inquiries to run alongside the emergency ‘999’ number we will simplify NHS services for patients. 111 will be free to call and available 24/7, putting patients in touch with the right NHS service, the first time.”

The 111 service will not replace NHS direct but is useful outside of GP surgery hours and for people who are away from home.

Yasmin Chaudhry, Chief Executive of NHS County Durham and Darlington wants to ensure the right care is delivered in the right way to patients.

She said: “The NHS 111 service will make it easier for the public to access urgent healthcare and will drive improvements in the way in which the NHS delivers that care.

“By better understanding what people really need from different local services, 111 will help improve efficiency across the whole health care system by reducing unnecessary waste and making sure people get access to the right service first time.”

Katherine Murphy, Chief Executive of The Patients Association said: “We welcome the pilots and would like them to raise public awareness and educate the public on when to call 111 or 999.”

Photograph from http://bigjimindustries.com/wordpress/index.php/2008/11/.

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