December 18, 2009
The East Midlands has been named as a pilot site to trial a new 111 non-emergency telephone number for the NHS.
OFCOM has announced that it has designated the number 111 for use by the NHS to complement the existing 999 emergency number. The East Midlands will be one of three regions to trial how the number could be used to make it easier for patients to access urgent care services.
We will be trialling the new number in Lincolnshire and Nottingham city first and plan to launch it later in 2010 before rolling it out to other parts of the region. 111 will not be available to call until the two trials start next year and we will advertise the new service in the weeks before it goes live.
In From Evidence to Excellence, the region’s vision for transforming local healthcare over the next decade, we committed to introducing a single point of access for urgent care as we had identified that the public often find it confusing knowing where to turn to for help in non-emergency situations.
Since publishing our vision in June 2008 a lot of work has gone on behind the scenes across the region to improve our current systems so that we have better information on what services are available, particularly out-of-hours, and can refer people to the right help for their urgent care need first time. Having better information means we can often avoid the need for someone to call for an ambulance or go to their local A&E, as we can provide them with help in the community, refer them to a walk-in centre or arrange for them to see a GP.
Dr Ruth Livingstone, a GP from Stamford and the regional clinical lead for the programme, said: “People know to dial 999 if they are in a life-threatening situation but we recognise that in other circumstances it is not so obvious to know where to turn to for help, particularly if it is outside normal GP surgery hours or if you are away from home.
“We want to make it easier for people to access the right help at the right time and that means knowing exactly what is available, where and when and being able to refer patients into the most appropriate service. We are already doing a lot to help emergency, hospital, community and GP services work better together to achieve this. Having an easy to remember phone number for the public is the final piece in the jigsaw.”
The number will not replace existing health service numbers and wherever people know which number to call for the service they need they should continue to use it, for example people should still call their normal GP surgery number to make routine appointments.
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