Dial 111 for healthcare in a hurry

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A NEW urgent care telephone number is going live in South Tyneside today.

The NHS 111 service aims to make it easier for people to get access to healthcare while taking the pressure off the 999 service and local accident and emergency departments.

The three-digit number should be called when it is believed medical help is needed fast but it’s not a 999 emergency.

Dr Kat Noble, regional clinical lead for 111, said: “This simple, free-to-call, easy to remember number will make it easier for people in the South of Tyne and Wear area to access the urgent care they require, no matter what time it is or where they are.”

The NHS 111 is part of a move to develop an integrated 24/7 urgent care service as set out in The Coalition: Our Programme for Government and the White Paper Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS.

It was first launched in four pilot areas in 2010 and a further three in 2011. The borough, Sunderland and Gateshead – which also both go live today – are the latest areas to be involved.

The service is due to be available nationally by October next year.

It will be available 365 days a year, and can be used by those who don’t know who to call for medical help, or those who don’t have a GP to call.

Trained advisors will be able to give advice about where a patient should go for treatment, and also give health information and advice.

Using an appropriate clinical assessment system, questions will be asked to assess callers’ needs and determine the most appropriate course of action.

If a patient is deemed to require an ambulance, they will also be able to be dispatched.

In the New Year, the NHS 111 service will be publicised on the television, though local events and households will receive leaflets.

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