‘Record numbers’ of calls to the NHS 111 helpline are being handled by clinicians, NHS England has said.
In the month of July, 52.1% of callers received an assessment from a doctor, nurse or other clinical professional, which NHS England said was the highest proportion since the service was introduced in 2013.
Since before its launch, NHS 111’s model of using call handlers to triage patients has been criticised for increasing pressure on GPs and A&E departments, however NHS England said that last month ‘only one in ten callers to 111 was advised to visit A&E’.
NHS England also said latest NHS 111 patient survey results showed more than one in four people would have gone to A&E, and 16% would have called an ambulance, had 111 not been available.
The latest data showed there were 1.4m calls to NHS 111 last month, an increase of 8% compared with July 2017.
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock commented: ‘Our fantastic NHS 111 clinicians and call handlers answer over a million calls every month, helping patients with on-the-spot advice and relieving pressure on A&Es.
‘Later this year we will launch the new NHS app where patients will be able to get 111 advice on their smartphone as well as make GP appointments and order repeat prescriptions – revolutionising the way millions of us access healthcare as part of our long term plan to guarantee the future of the NHS.’
Analysis by health think-tank the Nuffield Trust found earlier this year that since NHS 111 replaced NHS Direct across England, the number of callers passed onto ambulance services or A&E departments rose by 3% – from around 150,000 a month to over 200,000.
But the think-tank also found that NHS 111 significantly reduces pressure on primary and urgenct care services.
In 2015, Pulse revealed that all NHS 111 providers had been told to have GPs available in call centres to give clinical advice at peak times to reduce the burden on ambulance services and redirect cases towards primary care.