New 111 number launched for less urgent calls
A NEW phone number to get urgent healthcare is being launched in East Yorkshire.
The new 111 number is for calls that are less urgent than 999, but still warrant an answer straightaway, rather than waiting for a GP appointment.
It is being given a "soft launch" on March 5, but will officially go live to members of the public on March 19.
Patients calling 111 in Hull and the East Riding will be connected to a call centre run by Yorkshire Ambulance Service.
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The line is intended for serious, but not life-threatening calls.
These can include people who think they might need to go to A&E, do not know who to call, do not know which health service they need, need health information or reassurance about what to do next or need medical help fast but it's not a 999 emergency.
However, if someone calls 111 and it is believed they do need an ambulance, one will be sent.
Dr Krishnaraj Sivarajan, a GP at Hessle Grange Medical Practice and member of the East Riding Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: "Patients can call 111 at any time they like. It will be running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
"If the answer to their question is a simple one, they will deal with it and give an answer.
"If it is a more complicated situation, the call handler may pass them on to a clinician or nurse."
Yorkshire Ambulance Service will have a database of all the health services in the region, ranging from minor injuries units to dentists.
The database for East Yorkshire will be kept up-to-date by Hull and East Riding's Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).
Feedback will be given to the CCGs so they know how many calls are being received and which services are being used most frequently.
Dr Sivarajan said: "If a patient calls 111 three times or more in a four-day period, the system will be alerted. The patient will then be contacted by a surgery directly so they can receive an urgent assessment.
"This ensures the patient doesn't get passed around and we don't have the same situation as the Penny Campbell case."
The case of journalist Penny Campbell made national headlines when her inquest was heard in 2007.
The coroner's court was told how Penny was let down by serious flaws in her out-of-hours GP service over the Easter weekend in 2005.
She repeatedly called her out-of-hours surgery number and NHS Direct after complaining of feeling unwell after an operation to treat haemorrhoids at London Independent Hospital.
She received an examination at home and was given advice over the telephone.
The 41-year-old died after consulting eight different GPs about her symptoms.
Problems with how the out-of-hours service is run were blamed for her death.
Dr Sivarajan said: "Anyone who calls three times will get an urgent assessment so that we don't get something similar happening here.
"We'll get regular updates about the calls being made."
The freephone 111 number has already been piloted in a few locations in England and will eventually be rolled out nationally.
It will not replace existing local telephone services or NHS Direct, but will provide patients with an additional choice on how to find non-emergency care.
However, NHS Direct could become obsolete in future, if 111 proves popular.