The Covid-19 pandemic has made it clear that we need to change the way we all access healthcare, to help reduce the risk of infection. In line with government guidance on social distancing, changes are needed due to the limited space in hospitals and urgent treatment centre waiting rooms across the country.
NHS 111 First has been launched across Humber, Coast and Vale and is a vital part of our work to provide an integrated urgent and emergency care offer to all residents whilst minimising the spread of the virus.
Social distancing and infection control precautions have reduced space in emergency department waiting areas by 30-50%. Contacting NHS 111 first will help NHS services maintain social distancing and ensure that patients receive the right care, in a timely and safe way.
These changes have been put in place over the past few weeks, and from today (1st December 2020) you will see the start of a national media campaign, including TV advertising, to seek the public’s support in using NHS 111 to access urgent care services.
To ensure that patients get the right care as quickly as possible and to avoid long waits and over-crowding in waiting rooms, patients are being asked to call NHS 111 or visit 111.nhs.uk first before going to their emergency department, except in absolute emergencies.
NHS 111 makes it easier and safer for patients to get the right advice or treatment; the service will triage patients and assess whether they could be better and more appropriately served in a different care setting such as an urgent treatment centre or by seeing a GP.
Across Humber, Coast and Vale the number of health advisors available to answer 111 calls has been increased as well as the number of clinicians able to support and provide advice. Clinicians within the service can assess patients and provide the advice they need over the phone without having to visit a physical service
If the patient does need to be seen in an emergency department, NHS 111 can now provide them with an allocated time slot for arrival and send the relevant patient information ahead so the emergence department knows when the patient will be arriving and why they are there.
Over time, the new system will also be able to directly refer patients to a wide range of alternative services, appropriate to their needs. NHS 111 can also send an ambulance should a patient’s condition be serious or life-threatening.
People with life-threatening illnesses or injuries should continue to dial 999 and anyone who arrives at A&E without calling NHS 111 will still receive medical care, with those needing emergency treatment prioritised.
Humber, Coast and Vale Health and Care Partnership has been busy preparing for the NHS 111 First launch for several months, working alongside key partner organisations such as Yorkshire Ambulance Service, our hospital trusts, primary care, mental health and community services, to ensure that patients will have access to the right care, first time, every time, both in and outside of hospital.
The Partnership is incredibly proud of the role it has played, supporting partner organisations to develop and implement the new system. One major achievement has been Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust being the first hospital trust in the country to take 111 online bookings through the new digital system known as EDDI (Emergency Department Digital Interface).
I will give the last word to one of our residents who recently shared her feedback and told us how she has benefitted from the NHS 111 First programme.
Elaine from Cleethorpes told us: “I rang 111 today. I bent down in the garden and got a scratch to my left eye this morning. By this afternoon it was red and irritable. Rang 111, history taken, five minutes later had a telephone consultation with a paramedic. Advised to go to A&E at Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital (in Grimsby).
“Went straight down, they pulled up the information on screen, printed it off and sent me straight through to zone four with notes. Greeted by a nurse who took the notes, within five minutes called by the doctor who examined it with a slit lamp.
“Minor abrasion, no lens damage. Prescription given, dispensed by A&E nurse, on my way within half an hour. Well happy. The system does work.”