111 First launched today, 1 December 2020, a national programme which is designed to help keep urgent NHS services safe and to make sure that they are available for everyone who needs them. It is vitally important that everybody who needs urgent care is seen and treated safely in the right place, first time. Waiting for hours in an emergency department to be seen for a minor injury or illness is not in the interest of patients or those working hard to limit infection in hospitals. By picking up the phone and dialling 111 or going online to 111.nhs.uk before making the decision to travel, patients can be assured that they receive the right care in the right place for their healthcare need.

From today, those arriving without a booked appointment at an emergency department will be assessed by a senior nurse to see if they need immediate emergency treatment. They may be asked to contact NHS 111 to be assessed and directed to the most appropriate service for their needs. To support this, NHS 111 can now also make appointments at Emergency Departments (ED) in addition to GP practices and urgent treatment centres.

There will be a national campaign (including TV advertising) to support the new way of working and key messages will be:

  • You should always call 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured, or if their life is at risk
  • NHS 111 can help if you have an urgent medical problem and you’re not sure what to do. Anyone going online to 111.nhs.uk or calling the free NHS 111 number will be given a thorough assessment and then helped to find treatment, which could be at their local pharmacy, their GP surgery or an appointment slot at an A&E department or Urgent Treatment Centre.

HUC CEO David Archer says, “As an organisation, we have been part of the COVID-19 response from early on in the pandemic and we fully support the implementation of this new system, which provides additional measures to keep patients, their carers and loved ones as well as NHS workers safe from further infection by reducing unnecessary attendance at ED.  We are proud to be a trusted NHS 111 provider and the NHS 111 First programme will build on the positive relationship we have established with our patient communities, partner organisations and commissioners. Thank you to everyone involved at HUC and our partner organisations across the NHS for supporting us with this new programme.”