Getting the right treatment, at the right time at the right place has now become easier, with the NHS 111 First service now available on the Isle of Wight.
This initiative, which launches today, Tuesday 1 December, is designed to help people get the care they need whether that be at a GP or at the Emergency Department at St Mary's Hospital.
Unless it is a medical 999 emergency, the NHS is urging everyone to call 111 rather than turning up at the hospital.
People who call 111 will be taken through a series of questions which will deterime the next course of action. This may result in an appointment being made with a GP or an arrival time being given for the Urgent Treatment Centre or Emergency Department at St Mary's Hospital, who will then know who is due to attend.
“When you think you need A&E, call 111 first”
Joe Smyth, Chief Operating Officer at IOW NHS Trust, said: “We are pleased to be offering this service to our island community, as it will allow us to direct people to the most appropriate care setting for their treatment.
“You should continue to use 999 if you have a serious or life-threatening condition or accident. However, when you think you need A&E, call NHS 111 first. It may well save you a trip to the hospital, and if you do need to attend it is likely to reduce the time for you to be seen.”
Approximately 60% of ED attendances are people turning up during the day and early evening, which has implications for managing social distancing in waiting rooms.
Joe added: “Our Emergency Department is open at all times. No-one experiencing a medical emergency will ever be turned away, you will always be treated urgently if your condition is severe or potentially life-threatening. However, by calling 111 first, this will help us to keep you safe, reduces the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in our Emergency Department and supports you in accessing the right clinical service the first time.
Victoria White, Head of the Isle of Wight Ambulance Service, said: “The co-operation and partnership between the various healthcare providers on the Island to get this enhancement up and running has been outstanding.
“Our NHS 111 health advisors and clinical teams will be able to direct people to the quickest and most appropriate treatment for their needs.
“This initiative is vital for keeping people safe by reducing the time spent waiting in ED and for managing the capacity of NHS services by ensuring patients are getting the most appropriate care for their clinical needs.”
NHS 111 First is being rolled out across England today, but has already been introduced in some parts of the country, including Portsmouth. This service will both support Islanders to access the right care in a timely and more convenient way but also reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 at St Mary's Hospital.
Dr Michele Legg, a GP in Ryde and the Clinical Chair for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Partnership of Clinical Commissioning Groups, said: “This national programme will improve health outcomes and patient experience – and help us to ease the pressure on the NHS during the pandemic and peak times such as winter.
“Local GPs are playing a vital role in the delivery of this new approach, through our clinical assessment service. It links with NHS 111 to ensure that anyone who calls asking for urgent help can have their needs thoroughly assessed and identified within a few minutes of their initial call.
“The GP will have access to patient notes and can talk to them directly to identify the best option for them. That may be an arrival time in ED but in many more cases we find that people can be safely referred back to their GP practice for follow up support, given a prescription or directed to other help, sparing them a needless trip to ED.”
NHS 111, the free-to-call single non-emergency number medical helpline, is operated on the Island by the Isle of Wight NHS Trust.