NHS 111 is a national system that people can contact if they need clinical advice. People who need clinical advice but aren’t in a life-threatening emergency are encouraged to contact NHS 111 first before attending their local Emergency Department (A&E).
They will then be assessed and, if appropriate, booked into either the John Radcliffe or Horton General Hospital Emergency Department for treatment.
However, if it would be more appropriate for them to receive clinical advice elsewhere, they will be advised on:
• How to self-care if required
• Visiting their local pharmacy, dentist, optician, or their own GP for help
• Visiting a local minor injuries unit
Launched in Oxfordshire in November 2020, the programme plays an important part in managing patient flow in healthcare settings and reducing overcrowding.
Lily O’Connor, Deputy Director for Urgent Care at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Contacting NHS 111 first before you come to an Emergency Department means that you will get the most appropriate care for your needs, and enables us to maintain vital social distancing in our Emergency Departments.
“Our hospitals are fuller than they were in March and April last year and it’s really important that we’re able to keep everyone safely spaced, and provide the right care for people who really need it.”
Kathy Ruane, Clinical Lead Specialist/Nurse Consultant for Urgent and Ambulatory Care at Oxford Health, said: “The NHS 111 First service will, for many people, be the best and swiftest route to the treatment that they need.
“People often go to Accident and Emergency departments when they could be treated at a Minor Injuries Unit. NHS 111 First will help get them to the right place.
“In Accident and Emergency staff must give priority to serious and life-threatening conditions, so if you go there with a minor injury you may have to wait longer to be seen. It is better to go to a Minor Injuries Unit if there is one locally. We ask that, where possible you call 111 before attending our Minor Injury or First Aid Units, this will help with patient numbers and waiting times within the units.
“People should still contact 999 and attend an Emergency Department if they are experiencing a medical emergency.”
Dr Ed Capo-Bianco, Urgent Care lead at Oxfordshire CCG, said: “One of the main advantages of contacting NHS 111 first is that you will get the right care, in the right place, depending on your needs. You may be seen more quickly and by the healthcare professional who is best placed to treat you, a loved one, or the person you are caring for.
“By advising people where and when to go, we can reduce queues and avoid crowding in Emergency Departments and therefore reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission as well as the transmission of seasonal illnesses like flu and colds.”
Mark Rowell, Head of Integrated Urgent Care and NHS 111 Services for South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have worked collaboratively with Oxford University Hospitals to develop and implement an Emergency Department (ED) electronic booking system to protect patients and reduce the spread of COVID-19 infection risks in crowded ED waiting rooms.
“The system works extremely well and patients should contact 111 either by going to the NHS 111 online system where they can self-assess their symptoms and can arrange a call back from one of our clinicians if required, or by phone. If the telephone assessment results in the patient being required to attend ED, then a booked timeslot can be made by one of our clinicians. In many cases other more appropriate advice to signpost patients to different healthcare settings can be provided, or further advice given on managing symptoms at home.”
People will still be able to contact 999 and attend an Emergency Department if they are experiencing a medical emergency, but we would encourage people who do not need emergency care to contact NHS 111 First to receive the most appropriate, timely, and convenient treatment.
For more information, visit the OUH NHS 111 First webpage.