New non-emergency NHS care and advice service will extend across England by 2013, replacing NHS Direct
The government has confirmed that the non-emergency 111 service offering patients NHS care and advice over the telephone and online will be introduced across England by April 2013, combining the functions currently provided by NHS Direct and local out of hours services.
The new service will allow GPs to link their own booking systems to 111, giving patients the opportunity to book appointments if they need to see their GP urgently, if they need to see a nurse or need an urgent home visit in the middle of the night. The department said 111 services will be available to 10 million people by April 2012.
According to the Department of Health (DH), NHS 111 content will also be available online, allowing people to access health information, a directory of local services and check their symptoms as well as being able to connect to a 111 call advisor to assess the help they need. The DH said it intends to launch a mobile phone application offering the same services.
The news follows a letter a sent by deputy NHS chief executive David Flory and national director for improvement and efficiency Jim Easton to strategic health authorities (SHAs) about the 111 service in August. In the letter they asked SHAs to select their go-live dates, give details of geography covered and preferred operating models.
They also confirmed that NHS Direct, England's current medical advice service, will continue to be commissioned under current arrangements until the 111 service is available nationally. NHS Direct trust already runs some 111 services and is seeking to provide more.
The DH said that the aim of the new service is to give patients more choice and control, and clear up any confusion about who they should contact during day or night, adding that there will be "no more impersonal answer machines and no more waiting for call-backs".
Health secretary Andrew Lansley said: "The new 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."
Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, commented that the live services that will be made available to patients will be of huge benefit.
"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. NHS Pathways, which is the suite of clinical content that underpins the current NHS 111 pilots, has been developed by GPs so that it is relevant for the NHS. The NHS 111 service as a commissioning tool will no doubt also provide important information to help re-design local services so that they are more responsive to patients' needs."
The 111 service is currently available in the County Durham and Darlington, Nottingham City, Lincolnshire and Luton primary care trust areas under pilot schemes. It will be opened on the Isle of Wight, as well as in Chesterfield and surrounding areas, before Christmas.
Separately, the DH has also released online tools for patients in a bid to help people make more informed decisions about their healthcare. Eight online patient decision aids (PDAs), commissioned by NHS East of England from NHS Direct, offer patients information on the pros and cons of different treatment options available to them. The service is available on NHS Direct's website for patients across England.
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Oct 03 2011, 09:25 AM
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