The NHS 111 First programme is part of the NHS England 'Help Us Help You' campaign and plays a key role in the winter plans across England and for the NHS response to coronavirus.
This is a national programme that is being rolled out in a phased way across the country and will ask people to contact NHS 111 first, whether online or by phone, if they have an urgent – but not serious or life-threatening – medical need as an alternative to self-presenting as a walk-in to A&E. 111 will now be able to book them into the right service to meet their needs and this will include timed appointment slots in emergency departments, where appropriate.
No patient will be turned away if they self-present to A&E but will be provided with the most appropriate form of care, for example referral to another part of the hospital or another site such as the Urgent Treatment Centre or assisted use of NHS 111. This will help to ensure fewer patients in A&E waiting rooms and that wait times are reduced. Arrangements will not change for people with serious or life-threatening illnesses or injuries. They should continue to dial 999 as before.
NHS 111 First has already gone live in Warrington and Wigan (6 November) so patients in these areas can now access urgent and emergency care via 111 and there are plans for this to be rolled out across Merseyside from 17 November.
It is expected to be fully in place across England by 1 December and a national advertising campaign will accompany this.
Benefits of 111 First include:
People will get to speak with a senior clinician earlier; in some cases, this can be via video consultation so patients can see who is advising them on their care.
If someone needs urgent face-to-face assessment or treatment, this can be arranged there and then, without any further delay. They will know exactly where to go, and when. This will help also reduce waiting times for all patients.
By advising people where and when to go, we can control queues/crowding and thus significantly reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission
People are more likely to get the right treatment, first time
People should be seen quickly when they arrive for their appointment
People will be more likely to get care closer to home.