The way the general public interacts with the NHS continues to change and evolve – and one of the biggest shifts is the increased use of NHS 111. Boosted no doubt by the recent national advertising campaign, the NHS 111 service in England received 1,592,616 calls in January 2021, an average of 51.4 thousand per day. This was an increase of 5.9% on 48.5 thousand per day in January 2020.
The NHS 111 First TV advert encourages people to phone 111 or visit the website if they feel unwell instead of going straight to a doctor or hospital – with the 'Help Us Help You' commercial showing a man with stomach pain being given conflicting advice by different medical staff in his imagination. The campaign aims to encourage the public to use NHS 111 first when they have urgent but not life-threatening medical need, rather than going straight to A&E. If a patient needs urgent care NHS 111 can now book them in to be seen quickly and safely in A&E and Emergency Departments.
Direct Access to the Correct Care
Available 24x7, the NHS 111 service continues to be expanded to provide the first line of defence for the urgent and emergency care system by providing a single point of contact for concerned patients. Reinforcing the vision of the NHS Long Term Plan, the NHS 111 single Clinical Assessment Service (CAS) works with healthcare professionals from multiple disciplines and with many locations, including care homes, paramedics and community based clinicians to support patients and potentially avoiding unnecessary trips to A&E.
A key aspect of the service is the link between NHS 111 and care providers, including GP surgeries, with NHS 111 staff able to book appointments for patients directly into GP IT systems through GP Connect.
To assist in the implementation of GP Connect and support efficient 24 hour access to care for patients across England, Cegedim Healthcare Solutions Appointments application has been approved to deliver extended 24/7 appointment access across healthcare settings including emergency services and NHS 111. The latest version of Appointments enables GP Practices across England to share their appointment books with multiple healthcare organisations. Selected appointment slots can be easily tagged for GP Connect availability - offering flexibility for NHS 111 staff and directly enabling them to book appointments for patients at convenient times.
Delivering Shared Care
With 52.0% of calls triaged in January 2021 recommended to primary care, this integration is hugely efficient for NHS 111, GPs and patients, providing a fast, simple route to ensure a patient has access to the right local service. NHS 111 can also provide a patient with access to a nurse or emergency dentist, as well as booking attendance at A&E or requesting an ambulance. Of the other calls triaged in January 2021, 13.5% were referred to the Ambulance Service, 9.8% were recommended to attend A&E, 9.4% were advised to attend another service and 15.3% were not recommended to attend another service.
In addition to making appointments directly into GP practices across England, NHS 111 can also make referrals to community pharmacies who support urgent care. Direct integration between NHS 111 and community pharmacies will also be available soon, again improving the way NHS 111 can refer patients to the correct resource.
NHS 111 is also expanding its mental health services, with a view to becoming the single universal point of access for people experiencing mental health crisis by 2023/24, ensuring that anyone experiencing mental health crisis can call NHS 111 and have 24/7 access to the mental health support they need in the community.
Improving Patient Outcomes
The enhancements to NHS 111, including the clinical advice, assessment and direction to the most appropriate healthcare service, is a step forward in the delivery of the shared care vision. Getting patients to the right service as quickly as possible is key to improving patient outcomes and ensuring priority urgent needs are met first.
The system can also provide a single point of access for urgent response from community health services, with the CAS used to simplify the referral process for GPs, ambulance services, community teams and social care. The integration with NHS 111 and shared care services, with the ability to book appointments direct through NHS 111, should mean that the Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC) model is consistent across England for out of hospital urgent care .
Encouraging the public to think about NHS 111 First should help to meet the goals of the NHS Long Term plan to achieve a more joined up healthcare service and ensure patients get the right care, from the right person, in the right place, at the right time. The ability to make appointments for patients with their GP practice regardless of the time of the call to NHS 111 is another step forward in realising the shared care vision, improving patient care and streamlining processes for GPs.
For more information about GP Connect and GP Connect Appointments book a meeting with the team here.