New health telephone service to go live

By Tristan Harris Monday 07 January 2013 Updated: 07/01 15:35

A NEW health advice telephone service is set to go live later this year, replacing NHS Direct.

From April residents will be able to call 111 for non-life threatening health issues. It will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and will direct callers to the most appropriate service to meet their needs, taking into account their location, time of day and local NHS capacity.

It will be for those occasions when residents need medical help fast, but it is not a 999 emergency, when they do not know who to call for help or do not have a GP and for those who need health information or reassurance about what to do.

The calls will be managed in the same way they are when people dial 999, so if the handlers feel the call merits an ambulance, one will be sent out.

Callers will be routed to the new service from mid-February 2013, and encouraged to call the new number from the end of March, when the current NHS Direct number - 0845 46 47 - will be switched off.

The introduction of the service follows a number of trials across the UK and it is hoped will reduce the amount of inappropriate calls being made to the emergency 999 number which should only be used for life-threatening emergencies such as chest pain, chocking, blood loss or serious injury.

Health bosses are also urging residents to ensure they get their scrapes, sprains and broken bones treated in the right place this winter to help relieve the pressure on other parts of the health system.

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