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80% of NHS 111 referrals to GPs could be avoided, says NHS director

Four in five NHS 111 referrals to practices could be avoided if the calls are first taken by a GP, an NHS director has said.

Matthew Swindells, NHS England’s director for operations, information and growth, said that 80% of patients who would have been sent to the GP under NHS 111 guidelines avoided the visit if it was a GP that took their call.

This comes as NHS England announced in March that one in three calls to NHS 111 will be assessed by a clinician under plans to ‘beef up’ the helpline.

Speaking to delegates at the Health+Care conference today, he said ‘a cascade of changes’ needs to be implemented in order for the NHS to see a reduction in demand at GP practices and in A&E. 

He said GPs should ‘throw their expertise’ around a clinically-led NHS 111 ‘to deliver the first contact of care that was necessary so that people don’t turn up at GP practices, so that people don’t turn up in A&E’.

But he said this is not something GPs can achieve on their own and should be done ‘as part of a system’, adding that this is why sustainablity and transformation plans were launched.

He said: ‘This is a channel shift. This is about how do we put the right level of information in the right place, which is why our urgent and emergency care strategy talks about 111 services.

‘It talks about enhancing 111 so that when you ring you don’t just get shifted somewhere else; you actually get a clinical consultation.'

He added: ‘If the patients were told by the guidelines that they should go to their GP, if they talk to the GP on the phone 80% of them don’t need to go to the GP.’

Pulse previously reported that NHS 111 was told to have GPs available at peak times to give clinical advice after it was piloted in eight call centers across England, with the aim of increasing clinical input in the calls.

Mr Swindells also noted a similar trend in callers who would have been told to go to A&E under NHS 111 guidelines, with 85% told not to go to A&E when they spoke to a clinician.

Readers' comments (11)

  • Its waste of NHS money!!!!
    We dont need noctors. WE NEED PROPER DOCTORS.

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  • Finally maybe 'they' are starting to understand 111 is part of problem not the solution.....if so it's taken long enough. Triage needs experienced clinicians and common sense not non medical call center operators reading off a script asking whether you are still breathing or whether you've recently been to West Africa.

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  • Probably a good idea. The only problem is, these GPs will presumably reduce their other clinical activity to make time for 111 work. So it's shuffling the same (inadequate) number of GPs and the likely effect on workload is not clear cut.

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  • Dear All,
    Err I think this is called "GP Nightline", something wot i created in 1996.
    Paul C

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  • Perhaps going back to the bad old days might be required?

    Now let me see personal lists, personal triage, available appointments and rarely out on H/C Skype "tasks" banned and very little use of our local rapid response team. Low 2WW referral usage, higher than average conversion but not untreatable.

    Clearly a psychotic dinosaur and need to be sent for either retirement or remedial therapy ASAP

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  • Well well what a surprise! if you have properly trained clinicians involved things work better

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  • "Channel shift" not heard that one before. Welcome!

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  • As above - always pleased to add to my lexicon of b******ks - "channel shift" slots in nicely.

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  • If 80% of referrals to gp under 111 guidelines are not appropriate shouldn't the guidelines be adjusted first?

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  • In other news NHSE are looking for practices to open up their appointment slots for 111 to book. Presumably without the 80% funding increase at this extra workload would require!

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