Private Business Intermediaries

111 to 999

10/05/2013 | By Sharmila Chauhan
The new telephone 111 service may be channeling people into A&E rather than reducing the influx. In a report by ITV News, Dr Steve McCabe said, "The introduction of 111 has generated a good deal of dissatisfaction, particularly in emergency departments and amongst paramedics”  and that it is “widely-held opinion amongst emergency medics and doctors - both at national level and at local level - that 111 is increasing attendances [at A&E] unnecessarily".

Overly cautious

The report suggests that more people are ending up in A&E than before and the emergency services are being used inappropriately.

Medical staff interviewed suggested that this jump in numbers in emergency units is due to the fact that:
  • Inexperienced 111 call centre staff are being too cautious and referring them to 999
  • The computerised system of the list of questions callers are asked often leads to the conclusion of "call an ambulance"
  • Callers often get tired of waiting for a call back from staff at the non-emergency helpline, or after a bad experience they end up taking themselves to A&E

A well known problem

Problems with the 111 system have been well documented over the last few months. Public Health Minister Anna Soubry has been reported to have said: “In some areas it's working well, in some areas not so well.

We need to learn from that and we need to make sure that we have a proper service so we know people are getting good advice so they know where to go to get the best treatment, to get the best remedy, but without putting pressure on A&E that it doesn't need to have.”

About 111

111 is a:
  • Free one-stop number is for patients with urgent but not life-threatening symptoms
  • This includes people needing fast medical help but who are not a 999 emergency
  • Trained advisers who answer the phones offer basic health advice and direct the caller to the most appropriate service for their needs - e.g. A&E or GP out-of-hours services