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Frequently asked questions

What is NHS 111? 

NHS 111 is a new free national telephone service designed to make it easier for people to access local health services, when they have an urgent need. NHS 111 is all about making it easier for people to get the fastest, most effective care they need when they become ill or are injured. 

Who will answer NHS 111 calls?

Calls to NHS 111 are answered by fully trained NHS 111 call advisers, supported by experienced nurses. They use a clinical assessment system to assess callers’ needs safely and effectively and direct them to the right NHS service.

Why is the NHS 111 service being introduced?

The NHS 111 service is being introduced to make it easier for the public to access healthcare services when they need medical help fast, but it’s not a life-threatening situation. The NHS 111 service is part of the wider revisions to the urgent care system to deliver a 24/7 urgent care service that ensures people receive the right care, from the right person, in the right place, at the right time. 

Once the service has been launched, if people need to contact the NHS for urgent care there will only be three numbers 999 for life-threatening emergencies, their GP surgery or 111.The introduction of the new service will also help to drive improvements in the way in which the NHS delivers this care. It will enable the commissioning of more effective and productive healthcare service by providing comprehensive information on peoples’ needs and the services they are directed to.

Will people be diagnosed over the phone?

No, the NHS 111 call advisers will assess the caller’s symptoms using a clinical assessment system to determine the possible seriousness of their condition, and identify what service they need, and how quickly they need it (e.g. ambulance, A&E, urgent GP, or a range of other services).

Who provides the service?

Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group currently commission the NHS111 service in the West Midlands from West Midlands Ambulance Service who are the provider of the service. 

What happens if a caller does not know whether it’s an emergency? 

If someone calls NHS 111, and the clinical assessment identifies that they are facing a life-threatening emergency, the NHS 111 service will dispatch an ambulance directly. The NHS 111 call adviser will provide first aid advice to the caller until the paramedics arrive, without the need for transferring the call, or for the caller to repeat information. It does not matter if a caller is unsure of whether something is urgent or an emergency; the NHS 111 service will direct them to the right service, first time, even if the right service is an ambulance response. 

How will NHS 111 call advisers’ performance be monitored?

The NHS 111 service uses a comprehensive programme of monitoring which ensures detailed and comprehensive training and sign off to confirm complete competence before 111 advisers are able to take calls; Clinical supervision on all shifts to provide support and identify issues immediately; andActive audit of a percentage of calls taken by each 111 adviser every month. In addition, daily and weekly data identifies individual performance in key areas and allows immediate support to ensure all advisers provide a very high level of service at all times

Will the NHS 111 service book appointments with GPs?

The NHS 111 service is required to have the ability to book appointments for patients where appropriate. If a caller is assessed as needing to be seen by an out of hours GP the NHS 111 call adviser will, where possible, be able to book them an appointment. If a caller requires in-hours GP services they will be advised to contact their GP directly, and if their GP is unavailable within the suggested timeframe, they should call NHS 111 again to find an alternative service to meet their needs.

What clinical assessment system are the NHS 111 live areas using?

All the existing NHS 111 live areas are using the NHS Pathways clinical assessment system. This is an NHS owned system that has been developed by a team of NHS doctors, nurses and IT specialists to provide a safe, consistent clinical assessment of a caller’s symptoms and to identify the service that is best able to meet their needs. The system has been designed to assess calls about any symptom – from life threatening to very minor – and has been extensively tested, piloted and academically reviewed to confirm its effectiveness.

Is the service available to people with a hearing impairment or communication difficulties?

People with communication difficulties or impaired hearing are able use the NHS 111 service via a textphone by calling 18001 111. Calls are connected to the TextDirect system and the textphone will display messages to tell the user what is happening. A Typetalk Relay Assistant will automatically join the call and they will speak the users typed conversation to the NHS 111 call adviser and will type back the adviser’s conversation, so that this can be read this on the caller’s textphone display (or computer).

Is the service accessible to non-English Speakers?

The NHS 111 service uses a translation service so that it is accessible to people that do not speak English. Callers that do not speak English should state the name of the language they want to conduct the conversation in and the interpreting service will be utilised. Leaflets explaining how the NHS 111 service works are available in a number of different languages via www.nhs.uk/111