People requiring A&E can be urged to ebook an appointment via NHS 111 underneath a trial in elements of England.
The intention is to direct sufferers to probably the most clinically-appropriate service and to assist cut back stress on emergency departments as employees battle winter pressures, similar to coronavirus and flu.
The pilots are dwell in Cornwall, Portsmouth, Hampshire and Blackpool and have simply begun in Warrington.
If they’re profitable, they might be rolled out to all trusts in December.
However, individuals with a life-threatening situation ought to nonetheless name 999.
‘Best potential recommendation’
Under the brand new adjustments, sufferers will nonetheless be capable to search assist at A&E with out an appointment, however officers say they’re prone to find yourself ready longer than those that have gone via 111.
More NHS 111 name handlers are being introduced in to tackle the extra workload, alongside additional clinicians, the Department of Health and Social Care stated.
A marketing campaign known as Help Us Help You will launch later within the yr to induce individuals to make use of the brand new service.
The authorities has additionally pledged an additional £150m of funding to develop and improve 25 extra A&Es to scale back overcrowding and enhance an infection management forward of winter. This was along with the £300m introduced for quite a few trusts to improve their amenities, it stated.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock stated: “During the peak of the pandemic we saw millions of people using NHS 111 to get the best possible advice on Covid-19, and other urgent NHS services.
“These pilots will construct on this and take a look at whether or not we will ship faster entry to the appropriate care, present a greater service for the general public and guarantee our devoted NHS employees aren’t overwhelmed.”
This trial scheme, which seems likely to be adopted at hospitals across England, will see big changes to what people are familiar with at A&E.
People who are not seriously ill will be actively discouraged from arriving at emergency departments without an appointment.
They won’t be turned away, but they have been warned there could be even longer waits than before.
On the other hand, those who have called NHS 111 first and been directed to A&E will get a confirmed time to see an appropriate clinician.
They could just as easily be directed to an urgent treatment centre or a mental health professional.
There’s the understandable aim of cutting unnecessary visits, so reducing overcrowding in waiting areas at a time when hospitals want to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission.
But for the plan to work, a big public information campaign is required and people will need to have confidence they can get through quickly to an NHS 111 call handler when they need to.
Data from the Department for Health and Social Care suggests there are 14.4 million A&E attendances in England that have not gone through NHS 111, a GP or via an ambulance.
It said 2.1 million attendances do not result in admission or treatment.
Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, said trusts will welcome the funding, as it will “allow them to supply higher care for his or her sufferers this winter”, adding that the 111 proposals were the “proper approach”.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said the 111 scheme could have advantages for many older people, including avoiding waiting in crowded A&Es.
“However, you will need to stress that older individuals who have issue utilizing the cellphone won’t be turned away in the event that they go straight to A&E as earlier than,” she stated.
The government also announced a consultation on new targets for waiting times in A&E is being launched as ministers prepare to scrap the current four-hour target.
Dr Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “Expansion of NHS 111 will assist sufferers to be seen extra rapidly by the service most applicable to their wants.
“We are pleased to have reached the consultation phase of how A&E performance is measured with a focus on the safe, timely care of the very sickest patients, and look forward to the publication of the proposals.”