From Wednesday 11 November, people in Morecambe Bay who need urgent NHS care are being asked to contact NHS 111 either online (visit 111.nhs.uk) or by phone (dial 111) before they decide to walk in to the Emergency Department (A&E).
To avoid long waiting times in Emergency Departments, people who do not need an ambulance are being asked to contact NHS 111 First for an appointment before attending. The service will then book them a time slot at the most appropriate health service for the patient, which may include Royal Lancaster Infirmary, Furness General Hospital, an Urgent Treatment Centre, or an out of hours service.
The timed slots will also help with social distancing in the Emergency Department waiting areas and therefore help to prevent the spread of coronavirus during the pandemic.
The new approach will ensure that patients can access the clinical service they need, first time. Patients who need to be seen in the Emergency Department will be able to be seen and treated quicker.
Morecambe Bay follows on from other regions in the North West that have already implemented the new nation-wide system. Fylde Coast was the first region to implement the system, followed by Pennine (East Lancashire). NHS 111 First is being rolled out nationally by December.
Dr Jim Hacking, GP Executive Lead for Urgent Care at Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “This is about improving our offer to patients by helping them to access the right service quickly while also keeping them safe in a COVID-19 world, when we need to carefully manage the numbers of people in our Emergency Department.”
“People who need emergency care should still call 999 straight away. Those people who are not in serious danger but need urgent attention should now contact NHS 111 First either by telephone or online.
“They will be spoken to by a trained professional and a clinician if needed. If it is decided they should go to the Emergency Department then they will be given a suitable time to attend and staff at the hospital will be expecting them. The added bonus is that the staff in the Emergency Department won’t have to do any further triaging or initial assessments as that will already have been done by NHS 111. This means the patient will be seen and treated faster.”
Nationally around 70 per cent of people attending Emergency Departments had just walked in and the majority of those could have been seen through other services, such as the Urgent Treatment Centres, GP or even pharmacy. In the last few months in Morecambe Bay, around 69 per cent of attendances to the Emergency Department were people walking in unannounced.
For those living in rural areas the change could prevent unnecessary trips to hospital as there may be cases where treatment can be offered nearer to home.
Anyone who attends the Emergency Department without an appointment from NHS 111 will still be seen but could be directed to other services for treatment. Those with appointments from NHS 111 will also be given priority unless there is a medical need.
People with life threatening conditions that need emergency attention should still call 999. There is no change to the way in which people should seek advice from their pharmacy or make an appointment with their GP if their condition is not serious.