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If you need medical help and it’s not an emergency, call 111

12:00am | & Health

Calls to the free NHS 111 urgent care advice line have saved almost 12 million unnecessary visits to A&E since the service was started in 2011.

New figures from NHS England and Improvement show there have been 80 million calls to the 111 line between its foundation in April 2011 and September 2018. The line is for when you have a medical problem which needs immediate advice or care, but you don’t think it’s urgent enough to call the emergency 999 number.

Analysis of calls to the 111 line shows that more than one in four people using it (28%) would have otherwise had to go to their nearest hospital A&E (Accident & Emergency) department. One in six (16%) would have phoned for an ambulance, meaning 111 prevented three million 999 calls that could have resulted in unnecessary and costly ambulance call-outs.

As well as phoning 111, you can also access the service online at and growing numbers of people are now getting the healthcare help they need by phone or online without having to spend time in A&E or calling an ambulance.

When you use the 111 service –operating 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week – you will speak to a fully-trained advisor who will ask you about your symptoms. Depending on your situation, you will:

  • find out what local service can help you
  • be connected to a qualified clinician (nurse, emergency dentist, pharmacist or GP)
  • get a face-to-face appointment if you need one
  • be told how to get any medicine you need
  • get self-care advice.

The proportion of calls receiving direct input from a qualified clinician continues to grow, rising from 48.8% in March 2018 to 53.7% in March this year. Almost 15 million people had a call answered by NHS 111 in 2018/19 – an average of more than 41 thousand every day and continuing to grow.

Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for England, said: “The NHS is there whenever and however people need care. Ambulances and A&E will always be there in an emergency, but people can now also be helped quickly and expertly by phone, online and through new and upgraded services like Urgent Treatment Centres and our Clinical Assessment Service, accessed via NHS 111.”

The whole country now has access to Clinical Assessment Services through the NHS 111 service, meaning more people than ever were able to speak to a qualified health expert when calling. This upgraded service means patients have a free, single point of contact to get advice on where to get treatment, with ambulance dispatch and GP services working together.

The proportion of telephone calls to NHS 111 receiving direct input from doctors, nurses and other clinicians has been steadily increasing every month. Now, more than half of all callers to NHS 111 have direct clinical input from a trained medical professional compared to just a quarter in November 2016. As part of the new NHS Long Term Plan, it is also planned that people using the 111 service and who need follow-up care will be able to book an appropriate appointment as part of the call or online session.

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