Is it an emergency or not?
The new 111 phone line for non-urgent medical advice launched for a trial period in April 2012. The 111 service was initially launched in the North-East and is being rolled out to cover more areas of the UK. Depending on performance, the service may expand to cover the whole of the UK. This service could potentially replace NHS Direct completely (Note: as of 2014 NHS111 has been completely adopted in England and Scotland).
Running alongside 999, the 111 number has been designed to reduce pressure on hospitals and ambulance services by reducing the number of people using the 999 service for non-emergency treatment.
46 individual local bodies across the country are contracted to provide support to the new number. However, rolling out the service in all areas has been delayed due to the readiness of these bodies and some are still not opperational.
Early indication has raised serious concerns over the 111 service. Whilst the number of calls has steadily increased to 500,000, according to NHS statistics, abandoned call rates were at 8% in March 2013. Calls are answered by trained advisors rather than medical professionals and this is adding to the concern of the general public.
So, when should you dial 111?
As many of our delegates that have attended our first aid courses will tell you, the signs and symptoms of certain conditions can be difficult to spot and differentiate between.
Could the blurred lines between 999 and 111 lead to delayed emergency treatment?
Here is the official line from the NHS on the service:
You can call 111 when you need medical help that is not an emergency, if you are unable to contact your GP, need health information or reassurance or need information on local medical services.
Completing a First Aid at Work training course with Safety First Aid Training will allow you to become competent to preserve life, prevent the condition becoming worse and promote recovery. We understand differentiating between urgent and non-urgent treatment can be difficult. The essential first aid skills covered on our courses will help you to cope in emergency situations and are transferable out of the workplace and into everyday life. You will then be able to effectively judge when to dial 999 or 111!
Read more from the NHS on the 111 service