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NHS 111 will triage for all A&Es by December, DHSC confirms

Patients will be asked to book into A&Es using NHS 111 from this winter, the Department of Health and Social Care has confirmed.

The new NHS 111 First model will be piloted in at least one hospital trust in each region starting this month, and rolled out to all trusts by December.

The news comes three years after Pulse exclusively revealed that NHS England and the Government had been in talks about such pilots.

The move to make NHS 111 the ‘front door’ to urgent care aims to avoid 2.1m A&E attendances in England that result in no admission or treatment.

NHS 111 will instead direct patients to ‘the most clinically appropriate service’, including GP practices or urgent treatment centres, the DHSC said.

A public communications campaign will launch ‘later this year’ to ‘direct people to the right service’.

Patients who turn up at A&E without booking will still be seen, but the DHSC warned they ‘may end up waiting longer than patients with similar health issues who booked an appointment through NHS 111’.

The DHSC also said it will invest £24m to increase 111 call handling capacity, including having ‘more clinicians on hand to provide expert advice and guidance’.

Pilots are currently underway in Cornwall, Portsmouth, South East Hampshire, Blackpool and Warrington.

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘During the peak of the pandemic we saw millions of people using NHS 111 to get the best possible advice on Covid-19, and other urgent NHS services. 

‘These pilots will build on this and test whether we can deliver quicker access to the right care, provide a better service for the public and ensure our dedicated NHS staff aren’t overwhelmed.’

Dr Cliff Mann, NHS national clinical director for urgent and emergency care, added: ‘This additional investment will help us continue the development of NHS 111 and provide a broader range of services, with direct booking that will ensure all patients can see the right clinicians in the right setting, and address the extra challenges posed by Covid-19 so that emergency departments can safely treat those patients who do require their services.’

In July, NHS England board papers revealed the ambition for all A&E providers across England to implement a ‘minimum specification’ of the ‘NHS 111 first’ model by December 2020. 

Mr Hancock also announced an investment of £150m for the expansion and upgrading of 25 hospital A&E departments and a consultation – to be launched before December – on A&E performance measurements such as the four-hour waiting target.

NHS England confirmed to Pulse two weeks ago that the pilots were set to expand, with the ambition that all NHS 111 services in England would roll out the model by this winter.

At the same time, GPs working for the Covid telephone hotline claimed that NHS England was expanding its scope beyond coronavirus – potentially into the ‘111 First’ service – without increasing their pay.

The Welsh Government has said it also wants to roll out a call-before-you-walk A&E model across the country, following pilots.

NHS Digital figures revealed last month that NHS 111 was accessed by 30m users since the start of the pandemic.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Anonymous 17 September, 2020 12:18 pm

I would be interested to hear how the pilots are going… but, hang on a sec, it is going to be “rolled out to all trusts” by December, so maybe it actually doesn’t matter how the pilots are going, this is so obviously a brilliant idea…

Anonymous 17 September, 2020 12:25 pm

Its going to be world beating.

Anonymous 17 September, 2020 12:35 pm

It’s great to be anonymous, isn’t it?

Anonymous 17 September, 2020 12:36 pm

It’s a brilliant idea, since 111 algos default to “Go to ED” much of the time!

Anonymous 17 September, 2020 12:52 pm

Yes it will be World Beating, World Class care for Hardworking People, and no doubt NHSE are working Incredibly Hard right now to Deliver – We’re A Nice Kind Employer Really, See ?

Anonymous 17 September, 2020 2:49 pm

Another of Boris the spaffers moonshots coming over the horizon.World beating will be but not in the way he wants.

Anonymous 17 September, 2020 4:05 pm

When is a pilot not a pilot?

Anonymous 17 September, 2020 4:24 pm

This can only end very, very badly.

Anonymous 17 September, 2020 5:08 pm

Of course patients were happy to use 111 during the pandemic They were being told that everybody in hospital had Covid and was dying!
Not sure how willing they will be to accept this new dictat now
“patients without a booking may have to wait longer” what happened to free at the point of delivery and triage to treat those in most need?
A few vague chest pains turning up without an appt and then being told to wait and dying will soon change peoples ideas…………

Anonymous 18 September, 2020 12:37 am

Terrible idea. OOH GP staffing levels are not sufficient to cope with a significant increase in workload, the ambulance service will be overwhelmed & dangerously unwell patients who could be taken in a car straight to A&E will be sat by the phone waiting for a call back. At the peak of the pandemic call back times were hours- days. I fear people will die through delayed access to urgent care.

GABRIELA HADIAN 20 September, 2020 8:42 pm

Well , in our area the CCG has added a Covid list where NHS 111 can book directly the patients . So potentially we will have two lists of patients for one doctor !