NHS 111 – the freephone service people need to call for health advice or urgent healthcare information – celebrates its first birthday in Suffolk this month.
It has taken more than 150,000 calls from Suffolk residents in its first 12 months – 11,970 in January alone.
The service in Suffolk is commissioned by the Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group and West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group and provided by Harmoni which is now part of Care UK.
Harmoni’s Regional Director, Yee Lee Wright, said the Suffolk service has evolved into one of the best-performing in the country. “We are very happy with the way the service is working and with the positive feedback we are receiving from patients.
“Nationally, the NHS 111 service had its teething issues, which I think was only to be expected with the introduction of such a large-scale new service. However, our Ipswich centre settled very quickly which is testimony to the hard work and dedication of all the employees. It was a sharp learning curve but one which was made easier by our close working relationship with the local NHS and the ambulance trust. We also listened carefully to patient feedback which enabled us to fine-tune the service in line with patient needs.
Yee Lee continued: “Our monthly patient surveys show a very high level of satisfaction with the service and, interestingly, show more than half of those who called NHS 111 would have contacted 999 or A&E had 111 not been available. This suggests NHS 111 is helping relieve pressure on the emergency services.”
Anyone in Suffolk who calls NHS 111 is able to speak to a health advisor who is generally sitting in Harmoni’s Ipswich-based centre. The adviser will assess the caller’s symptoms, give them advice and direct them to the right local service that suits that patient’s needs if appropriate. Calling NHS 111 is free from landlines and mobile phones and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Dr Bryan Anderson, Harmoni’s Regional Medical Director, said: “We are at the stage now where we can stop being merely content that the service is working as it should be and, instead, start looking at how we can ensure continuous improvement. We are receiving increasingly positive feedback from patients who use the service and we use this feedback to see how we can fine-tune the service to make it as patient-friendly as possible.”
“One of our challenges moving forward is to work with commissioning and other provider colleagues to make local urgent care services as co-ordinated as possible. I feel we are ready for that next step.”
Dr Simon Arthur, a GP in Newmarket and member of the Governing Body of the NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Since its launch last year the NHS 111 service has helped thousands of people across the county. We are confident the service is safe and efficient and is delivering a good level of care to people in Suffolk.”