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Call NHS 111

​​NHS 111 - get the right treatment at the right time, first time​
People with a medical need that doesn’t need a 999 call are being urged to call the NHS 111 helpline this winter.

When GP practices are closed during the festive holidays, many people with health concerns often use Torbay Hospital’s A&E as their first port of call.

But healthcare leaders are asking people to call the NHS 111 free helpline initially, to ensure they are directed to the best service for their needs.

Dr Mike Haugh is the NHS 111 clinical lead for South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group, which is responsible for the vast majority of healthcare in the area, including hospital care and community services.

He said: “Less than 10 percent have to attend A&E after calling NHS 111. The 111 staff have details of all the local services across Devon, so they can direct callers to the right place at the right time for their condition, and they are working closely with Devon Doctors to ensure the service they provide is as good as it can be.

“By working closely with Devon Doctors, which is considered one of the best GP out-of-hours services in the UK, we are able to ensure residents and visitors to Devon get an appropriate and timely response to any medical problem that arises, day or night, weekday or weekend.

“It’s a pity that people are sometimes waiting at A&E for hours. If they call 111 they could save themselves a long wait, but more importantly they will be directed to the most appropriate part of the healthcare system.

“Also, people should make sure they have a well-stocked medicine cabinet for times when they or their family are feeling under the weather this winter.”

Many people attend A&E each week when their treatment could be more appropriately provided at another service – but health leaders are keen to reverse this trend.

While NHS 111 should be people’s first point of contact for people under the weather this winter, pharmacies, minor injuries units and GP practices are alternative sources of treatment and information.

Dr Rob Dyer, medical director at Torbay Hospital, said: “The role of an A&E department is to prioritise and treat the sickest patients who may have life-threatening illnesses or injuries.

“It’s important that we are able to treat those patients effectively and without delay, but quite often there are too many people attending A&E who could be treated more appropriately elsewhere. This can place a huge amount of pressure on an already busy department.

“Patients with more minor ailments should consider if they can access help from another source, such as their GP practice, local minor injuries units or pharmacies.”

If people need medical help quickly but their situation is not a 999 emergency, they should call the free NHS 111 advice line, where staff are able to refer people to the most appropriate service.

This includes referring people either to their own GP or to the out-of-hours GP service, should they need it.

Dr Ellie Rowe, commissioning lead for South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We need to ensure that staff in A&E are available to deal with the patients who really need their urgent attention.
“Many minor ailments and conditions can be treated at home with advice and remedies from a local pharmacist.

“If people are uncertain or concerned about their illness, or they need to consult a doctor out of hours, please call the confidential NHS 111 helpline, which is free from mobiles and landlines.”