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DoH sets out plans for NHS 111

New service to be more comprehensive and easier to access

Louise Prime

Thursday, 11 November 2010

The new NHS 111 service will be free to call and make it easier for patients to access the services they need, at the right time, the Department of Health claims. Health secretary Andrew Lansley has written to the Health Committee seeking to reassure them that NHS 111 will be an improvement on NHS Direct and provide a more comprehensive service.

In his lengthy letter, Mr Lansley asserts that NHS 111 will provide consistent clinical assessment of patient needs and ensure that patients are directed to the service that will best meet those needs according to their location, the time of day/night and availability of local services. He also said that patients should have “an improved telephone experience” as they may be able to book appointments on the spot.

The health secretary says he hopes that significant cost savings – £13m in London alone – will result from creating a more integrated urgent care system, for example by reducing ambulance despatches as patients call 111 instead of 999 and reducing A&E attendances.

Pilots of NHS 111 have found that a smaller proportion (38%) of trained nurses are needed to use its assessment system compared with that of NHS Direct (which had 48%), while remaining safe, Mr Lansley added. He said that if any caller needs to speak to a nurse or see a doctor, the new service will arrange that.

He said that the pilots will run for 12 months, and the evaluation of them – made independently by the University of Sheffield, against five specified criteria – will be available until November 2011. The range of current pilots will also be expanded.

He concluded: “While it is essential that NHS 111 is delivered in the most cost-effective way, the primary reasons for its introduction [are] to improve access to NHS services for patients, to end confusion about where to go for urgent health needs, and to support a more integrated and effective urgent care service.”

 

 BBC News - 28 August 2010

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