NHS England’s plan to make the 111 service a ‘primary route’ into emergency departments has fallen ‘far short of aspiration’, with only a small fraction of attendances being booked through it.
NHSE began recording the numbers of ED appointments booked via 111 in August 2020, as it aimed to reduce unnecessary attendances and demand on emergency services, via the programme known as “111 First”.
Planning guidance for 2021-22 told local systems to “promote the use of NHS 111 as a primary route into all urgent care services”. It added that at least 70% of patients referred to ED by 111 services should receive a booked time slot to attend.
Pilots experimented with making it harder for people who had not called 111 to attend A&E, although proposals to direct those people away were rejected.
Data published by NHSE shows the number of ED attendances that were booked through 111, but not those referred to ED without a booking.
Jacob Lant, head of policy and research at Healthwatch England, said: “Sadly, it’s clear from these figures that implementation across the country is lagging behind where we would have hoped.
“Obviously this has to be seen in the context of the massive pressures on A&E departments at the moment as a result of the pandemic, but there is also a need for the NHS to really step up efforts to tell people about this new way of accessing care.”
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Source: 25 February 2022
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