NHS 111 First Programme Expands
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
(call 111) - if they have an urgent, but not serious or life-threatening, medical need.
The system reflects the safety measures for seeing patients in an Emergency Department (ED) or other treatment centre that were put in place because of the pandemic. These prevent the spread of infection by preserving social-distancing, and separating people with and without Covid. The changes 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 (UTCs) and this is being expanded to include all London EDs.
People contacting NHS 111 who are local to five hospital sites in London and who are assessed as needing to attend an ED, can have an appointment booked for them. In North Central London, North Middlesex University Hospital is the first emergency department to trial this approach. This service will expand to more sites in two waves, with the Royal Free Hospital and Barnet Hospital expected to go live in October. All NCL hospitals will have this system in place by the end of the year.
People who make their own way to EDs and UTCs will continue to be seen. Patients needing emergency treatment will be prioritised, however those whose conditions are not as urgent may need to wait elsewhere or may be asked to return for a later appointment.
NHS 111 First will bring several improvements for Londoners:
- 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 increased by 644, including 166 more doctors, nurses, pharmacists and paramedics. In North Central London, LCW the NHS 111 provider has expanded its capacity by around 20 per cent.
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.