Standing at the Front Door of Integrated Urgent Care

The staff of the NHS 111 call centre arguably stand at the gates of our National Health Service, with our sole purpose to get each service user to the right destination, ensuring that they safely get the appropriate treatment and/or advice in the correct time frame, 365 days a year 7 days a week.

It may seem like a simple remit but it is certainly a challenging one.

Chief among these challenges are the finite resources available to help those in need. There are few better vantage points than 111 to witness evidence of the daily pressures across the many aspects of urgent care. Efficiently and appropriately connecting patients to Out of Hours GPs and specialist community services, hospital services and emergency ambulance services is only part of the battle when those very services are under such strain.

The ever rising demand for urgent care grasps voraciously at the available resources and it is the NHS 111 call centre staff who must responsibly ration those resources.

Fortunately, the pursuit of effective Integrated Urgent Care is one in which HUC has led the field. Already providing Hertfordshire with its OOH GP services across ten locations as well as the GP home visiting service (AIHVS), community nursing and dental services, the degree of integration that this instils in NHS 111 call centre culture shouldn’t be taken for granted. It enables those of us at the ‘front door’ of the NHS to better understand available resources and guide our service users toward making informed and appropriate decisions.

It is logical that the same benefits would be gleaned from fostering even closer relationships with staff in other sectors, particularly our emergency ambulance and A&E colleagues. This is certainly something I hope to encourage.

As we step into to the future of Integrated Urgent Care, embracing NHS England’s Five Year Forward View and an increased focus on out of hospital, community-led care, I hope to use this regular blog to examine the challenges more closely and the part that NHS 111 will play in improving the experience for all involved.

Written by Mathew Westhorpe

Mathew Westhorpe is an HCPC-registered paramedic with over a decade of experience on the emergency ambulance front line at East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust. After retiring due to injury in 2012, Mathew focused on analysing the pressures facing the UK's ambulance services on his Broken Paramedic blog and through other media engagement, including appearances on television and radio, and in numerous national and regional news publications. He has held the position of Clinical Advisor at Herts Urgent Care since August 2015.