Plea for calls to new 111 service to help protect emergency departments

For the latest coronavirus health advice from the NHS, go to Picture: PA/Jane Barlow

Health officials are pleading with patients to use a new NHS 111 system for people in Suffolk and north east Essex - Credit: PA

Health officials are pleading with patients to use a new NHS 111 system for people in Suffolk and north east Essex which aims to protect emergency departments over Christmas. 

The new system has been introduced for people who need urgent – but not emergency – NHS care.

Patients are being told to "Think 111 First" by contacting the number to find out where they should go for treatment and when.

Belinda White, of Care UK Picture: CARE UK

Belinda White, regional manager at Practice Plus Group which provides the 111 service for Suffolk and north east Essex. - Credit: CARE UK

The new system aims to prevent emergency departments from becoming too busy over the festive period and also to help patients find the right service for their illness on the first try. 

Call handlers will triage patients and put them in touch with whoever is best placed to help, be that mental health services, maternity care, GPs or an emergency department. 

However, those with serious or life-threatening illnesses or injuries, such as chest pain, severe bleeding or loss of consciousness, should still continue to dial 999.

Belinda White, regional manager at Practice Plus Group which provides the 111 service, said: "We have a comprehensive range of clinically trained individuals within our 111 service who will deicide how quickly someone needs to be seen and where they need to be seen. 

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"The key thing about this service is that patients should receive the appropriate care from the appropriate service on the first time of asking. 

"This will help keep those visiting emergency departments safe as social distancing will be easier to follow and people will be able to receive the care they need."

Patients will now be given an arrival time to attend the emergency department, who will know when they will attend and for what reason. 

It is hoped that this system will allow social distancing to be managed, and also control how busy the emergency departments get while safely triaging patients. 

Those who arrive at an Emergency Department without a referral from NHS 111 may be directed elsewhere or have to wait until referred patients have been seen, unless they need immediate treatment.

A spokesperson for North East Essex and Suffolk CCGs said: "Everyone recognises the traditional winter pressures as well as an increased demand as a result of Covid-19 on our local NHS services. 

"Never before has it been so important for people to call 111 so they can be directed to the appropriate service for them."

NHS 111 is staffed 24 hours a day, every day. The service can be accessed by calling 111 or by visiting online.

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