The NHS 111 First Programme will bring a new approach to streaming patients into urgent care settings. It aims to get people to contact NHS 111 - online or by phone - if they have an urgent, but not serious or life-threatening medical need.
The new system reflects the new safety measures for seeing patients in an emergency department and other care settings due to the pandemic. Preventing the spread of infection by preserving social-distancing, and segregating people with and without COVID is essential to make sure people can receive safe urgent and emergency care. NHS 111 First will also make it easier and safer for patients to get the right treatment at the right time.
In London, NHS 111 is already able to book appointments for patients at the majority of Urgent Treatment Centres and this is being expanded to include all London emergency departments by the end of the year.
People contacting NHS 111 that are local to North Middlesex University Hospital, and who are assessed as needing to attend an emergency department, will be advised where they need to go for treatment and a timeslot can be booked for them. This service will expand to more sites in two waves, and will be available to all hospitals in north central London by the end of November.
If people do make their own way to emergency department s and urgent treatment centres, they will still be seen. Patients needing emergency treatment will be prioritised, however those whose conditions are not as urgent may need to wait elsewhere or will be asked to return for a later appointment.
NHS 111 First will bring several improvements for NCL residents:
- people will get to speak with a clinician earlier, and get the right treatment first time
- if someone contacting NHS 111 needs urgent face-to-face assessment or treatment, this can be arranged there and then. Patients will know exactly where to go, and when.
- by providing people with booked appointments we can control queues and crowding in emergency department waiting rooms and the risk of coronavirus transmission significantly reduced. This will help to also reduce waiting times for all patients
- people will be more likely to get appropriate care closer to home
To support this initiative and any increased pressure as we go into the winter period, capacity in the NHS 111 service has been expanded significantly. Around 2,500 staff look after Londoners as part of the 111 service, 24/7 365 days of the year; this number will be expanded by 644, including 166 more doctors, nurses, pharmacists and paramedics. In north central London, LCW the NHS 111 provider has expanded their capacity by around 20%.
Arrangements will not change for people with serious or life-threatening illnesses or injuries, who should continue to dial 999 as before.
This new arrangement in London is not unique; other areas around the country are developing similar responses to the pandemic for their urgent and emergency care services.