To avoid a long wait in A&E this winter, under a new scheme, those in need of care for a serious but non-life threatening condition will be able to book their appointment through a 111 First programme. This will be introduced in coming months to avoid the overcrowded scenes in A&E units, which could trigger major local outbreaks of coronavirus.
The Daily Telegraph yesterday reported (04.09.2020) ‘Trials of “111 First” are now underway in Portsmouth, Cornwall, and about to launch in Newcastle and Blackpool and parts of London. NHS chiefs plan to expand pilot schemes in every region of country, before full rollout of the schemes to all A&Es by December. ‘
The new 111 First programme will schedule slots at A&E to help maintain social distancing in hospitals, or will direct patients to other local services such as your GP or pharmacist. The service is due to launch a major public information campaign in the coming months informing the public where and how to access the care they need.
A spokesman for NHS England emphasised that those who did not book an appointment would not be turned away if they presented at A&E.
‘It reduces the crowding in A&E but still allows you to get the help you need. NHS 111 staff can already book people who need it into face-to-face appointments with local clinicians or arrange home visits. As the NHS now prepares for winter, we are further improving that offer with more clinicians and better links into local emergency departments.’
The spokesperson added that those in need of urgent care would be given a slot within a matter of hours, while in serious cases 111 operators would send an ambulance to take a patient in immediately.