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NHS initiative that asks patients to dial 111 before going to A&E to be soft launched in Rutland and Leicestershire

A scheme that will ask some patients to phone 111 before going to A&E will be ‘soft launched’ in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland next week.

NHS 111 First is a national initiative designed to reduce waiting times and ensure patients attend the most appropriate setting for any treatment they might need.

The change will apply to those patients who are experiencing a health issue that is urgent but not immediately life-threatening.

NHS logo
NHS logo

All patients will still be able to attend A&E as normal.

Outlining the plans, Tamsin Hooton, assistant director of urgent and emergency care for Leicester’s Clinical Commissioning Groups, said that during peak lockdown A&E attendances ‘reduced significantly’ at the Leicester Royal Infirmary.

“Where Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, in common with the rest of the country, saw a really dramatic drop in the number of people presenting the emergency department because of anxiety about exposing themself to the virus but also because people were hearing media campaigns about stay away, which meant we saw a decluttering of emergency departments,” she said.

But, since lockdown rules have eased, attendances at A&E have started to rise again.

In a report about the plans she added: “The challenge of increased attendances combined with the reduction in available space means that the NHS system has to respond by reducing the number of patients using emergency departments.

“This will be achieved by guiding the public to make the right healthcare choices to ensure their safety and the safety of others, as well as making sure they get the right treatment in the most appropriate place.”

Health bosses hope that the introduction of the scheme will help direct people to the best place for treatment and prevent hospital-acquired infection by ensuring patients do not need to ‘congregate together in A&E waiting rooms’.

They hope that the move, which is also being rolled out in other areas, will help to ‘achieve long-term behaviour change’ of those who visit emergency departments for minor illnesses.

Calling NHS 111 before heading to A&E will mean that patients can be triaged over the phone.

Clinically trained call handlers will then advise them on next steps and will have the ability to book them a slot at A&E, an urgent care centre or with their GP depending on the issue.

Patients are still advised to call 999 in an emergency.

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