‘Contacting 111 first will get you the right treatment more quickly’, says Devon doctor introducing new service

People who contact NHS 111 by phone or online, at any time of day or night, will now get quicker clinical advice and care before they visit an Emergency Department.

An improved system is being introduced this week that will give quicker and safer access to NHS services for people in Devon when they need urgent care. The aim is to ensure that people get the right care and attention they need at the right place and reduce waiting times.

People are being urged to contact 111 first to get expert advice about which service to use and when. The 111 service has been in place since 2013, but now those contacting 111 who need emergency medical care from a hospital Emergency Department (also known as A&E) will be given direct access to the department. If the issue would be better dealt with in a Minor Injury Unit, GP surgery or other urgent care site, patients will be able to be booked in directly. These improvements will ensure that people get to the right place for treatment quickly and should reduce waiting times.

The approach, being rolled out across the country, will not only treat patients more quickly, but it will also reduce unnecessary visits to some of the region’s busiest healthcare facilities – taking pressure off local services and ensuring social distancing measures are applied.

Dr Dafydd Jones, Plymouth GP and clinical lead for urgent and emergency care at Devon Clinical Commissioning Group explained “Trained clinical professionals at 111 will advise people on the most appropriate healthcare service for their needs.

“The new system will help more people to benefit from early clinical assessment over the phone, or online and will support the NHS to manage the flow of patients when capacity in waiting rooms is much smaller than before, to maintain distancing and reduce the risk of infection.”

Dr Adam Reuben, ED Consultant at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust said: “A high proportion of people who walk in to an Emergency Department could be safely treated in a different healthcare setting.

“Contacting 111 first will get you the right treatment, more quickly.

“It can be difficult to know where to go for urgent medical treatment or advice. When you think you need to go to the Emergency Department, we are asking people to stop and contact 111 first. Clinicians will be able to advise you on where to go, or what to do next and to book a time to attend at that service, if appropriate. Anyone with life-threatening emergencies should continue to contact 999 as before.”

Philippa Slinger is lead chief executive for the Devon Sustainability and Transformation Partnership, which has overseen the changes.  She said: “Getting Think 111 First up and running in Devon during the COVID-19 has involved close and collaborative working from all parts of the health and care system, and I would like to thank all our partners for their commitment and ability to work at pace.

“This is an important step forward at any time but even more so during a pandemic that requires us to keep our distance from one another to keep us all safe.  These changes will also reduce the risk of crowded waiting rooms. This is a fantastic example of what can be achieved when health and care services are joined up and work together to improve services for the benefit of the people who live in Devon.”

Dr Justin Geddes of Devon Doctors who run the 111 service, said: “We are excited to expand the existing service.  We have opened a new 111 call centre in Plymouth and more than 35 new jobs have been created to meet the demand for the increased number of calls to 111, ensuring people get through to the service quickly and safely.”

Arrangements have not changed for people with serious or life-threatening illnesses or injuries. Please continue to dial 999, as before.

To contact 111 – just call 111, or click: 111.nhs.uk