The NHS 111 service will cover 10 million patients by April 2012, the health secretary has announced.
Mr Lansley also revealed plans to launch an NHS 111 website and a linked mobile phone app, both of which would allow patients to check their systems, connect directly to NHS 111 advisers, and access a directory of local services.
The NHS 111 service is currently available in four areas in England. The DH said that further services will be rolled out in the Isle of Wight and Chesterfield ‘before Christmas’, with ‘over 10 million’ patients having access to NHS 111 by next April.
Mr Lansley said: ‘The new NHS 111 service will mean patients can access the whole of the NHS through just one simple number. This marks another important step in modernising the NHS and giving patients greater control and choice over their healthcare.’
The Prime Minister said that the move is the latest development in the Government’s drive to offer patients ‘24 hour care, 365 days a year’.
‘I believe people should get the care they need, when and where they need it,’ Mr Cameron said. ‘That’s why we are introducing NHS 111. The new service will make sure callers can access the care and advice that is right for them, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.’
Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the RCGP, said: ‘NHS 111, as a single point of access for patients with urgent care needs, with a memorable telephone number linked to an up to date directory of services, is a major step forward.’
‘However, patients should be aware that this is not a replacement for the current system and that they can continue to call their GP practice as normal. Having a live directory of services will also be of benefit to NHS staff including GPs, allowing them to more easily access local services for their patients.’
The news follows concerns from GPC leaders over the NHS 111 service. Last month GPC negotiators said ‘it is not clear how NHS 111 will be paid for’ and raised fears that the Government would hit GP out-of-hours funding to fund the service.
They said early signs from NHS 111 pilots indicated that the service ‘costs more than existing provision’ and said some pilot sites had experienced ‘operational issues’.