The NHS has enhanced the NHS 111 service in North and Mid Hampshire, making it easier than ever for people to get the care they need quickly and safely.
NHS 111 First is now up and running at Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital and the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester, providing booked arrival slots into the emergency departments (ED). It is intended to cut waiting times for urgent care, and direct people straight to the most appropriate service for their health needs.
Every patient who contacts NHS 111 First is assessed by a health advisor, supported by clinicians, who provides advice or directs them to the most appropriate service for their needs. That could be ED, the minor injuries clinic in Andover, a GP practice or a pharmacy, or the person could be given advice over the phone.
If the patient is advised to attend ED but their condition is not assessed as being a medical emergency, NHS 111 offers to book them an arrival slot.
Contacting NHS 111 and getting a timed slot for an appointment in 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.
About half of ED attendances are ‘self-presenting’, or walk-in patients, with the majority of those cases taking place during the day and early evening. This makes it difficult to manage waiting areas so that social distancing can be maintained.
NHS 111 First also reduces the risk of transmission of COVID-19 by reducing the number of people gathering in waiting areas.
Anyone experiencing a medical emergency should still attend the Emergency Department without a booked appointment or call 999.
This programme is being introduced in some parts of the country throughout October and November, ahead of the national launch in December.
Dr Lara Alloway, chief medical officer at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the two hospitals in Basingstoke and Winchester, as well as Andover War Memorial Hospital, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically changed how we provide care, and that starts right at the front doors of our hospitals in our emergency departments.
“In North and Mid Hampshire we are now asking all patients with an urgent – but not serious or life-threatening – injury to contact NHS 111 first, instead of arriving unannounced at the emergency department.
“Using NHS 111 First helps us to keep patients safe, and makes it as easy as possible for people to be put directly in touch with the right clinical service for them, first time.
“Our emergency departments are open at all times and anyone experiencing a medical emergency should still call 999. Patients who arrive at ED without contacting NHS 111 first will still receive high quality emergency care and treatment.”
John Black, Medical Director at South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS), said: “The co-operation and partnership between all parts of the NHS in North and Mid Hampshire has been outstanding. We have delivered a significant improvement to a key service, and have done this quickly.
“Our NHS 111 health advisors and clinical teams will be able to direct patients to the quickest and most appropriate treatment centre for their clinical needs.
“We believe that NHS 111 First is more convenient for people, and safer. Nobody likes having to wait around, or be passed from one service to another, and now we can cut out that inconvenience for patients, and get them in touch with the care they need, with less time spent in waiting areas.”
Dr Nicola Decker, clinical lead for North and Mid Hampshire, in the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Partnership of Clinical Commissioning Groups, said: “We really believe that our NHS 111 First will be a better, safer experience for people using the service, and has the potential to ease the pressure on the NHS during the pandemic and peak times.
“Local GPs are playing a vital role – our clinical assessment service links with NHS 111 so that any patient asking for urgent help can have their needs carefully assessed by experienced clinicians within a few minutes of their initial call.
“The clinician will have access to patient notes, thus improving continuity of care whilst identifying the best solution for their need at that time. That may be an arrival slot in ED, but often we find that patients can be safely referred back to their GP practice for follow up support, given a prescription or directed to other help, sparing them a needless trip to ED.”
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.