Relaunch of NHS 111 in Somerset

It is entirely understandable that the Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) are asking residents to contact 111 first, before visiting A&E. Especially as services are stretched by the COVID 19 pandemic, it makes sense to try and get people to the right place for treatment. What the CCG would like, is to be able to triage (decide where best to send a patient) over the phone. In theory if people contact NHS 111 by phone or online, at any time of day or night, they can get medical advice and care. Dr Helen Thomas, Clinical lead for Urgent and Emergency care at Somerset CCG explained “We want to ensure that people can access the right care, in the right place and at the right time. If people have an urgent, but non-life threatening medical need – by contacting 111 first, we can provide medical advice and assessment quickly.”

How is the new service different from the old 111 service?

This is what the CCG have to say about that: “The key difference in the new Think 111 service is that after initially calling NHS 111 with a clinical concern that is not an emergency requiring a 999 response, the call will be passed to a clinician within the Clinical Assessment Service for triage and direct referral where necessary to their GP surgery, local MIU or emergency department. The receiving medical team will have knowledge of the patient and the concerns. The aim is to reduce unnecessary visits to emergency departments, and ensure that people are seen by the most appropriate service in a timely manner by encouraging people to contact 111 first. This will also support the NHS to manage the flow of patients when capacity in waiting rooms is much smaller than before to maintain social distancing and a ‘covid secure’ service.

For minor and routine healthcare needs, people are encouraged to self-care, contact their local community pharmacy or GP surgery in the usual way.  People can still go to Emergency Departments ( A&E) or Minor Injury Units for urgent care without calling ahead but thinking “NHS 111 First” will mean:

•             shorter waiting times via a booked slot at the emergency department or another appropriate service and

•             safe social distancing away from busy emergency department waiting rooms to protect you and others from COVID-19.”

Needless to say this is not the whole story. There will be a full report on our investigation into the service in the January edition of The Leveller®

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