Helpline begins taking out-of-hours GP calls

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The new NHS 111 telephone helpline is now handling out-of-hours GP calls in Sheffield after the launch was put back for three months amid concerns over the system’s safety.

The line – intended to replace the old NHS Direct service, doctors’ out-of-hours numbers and the handling of urgent dental calls – was supposed to be officially up and running in April, but the start date was delayed for ‘clinical reasons’.

Almost the full complement of 111 services is being offered in Sheffield, but urgent dental calls are still waiting to move to the number.

The free helpline is for patients with urgent, but not life-threatening symptoms.

Trained advisers who answer the phones offer basic health advice and direct the caller to the most appropriate service, such as hospital or an on-call doctor.

Dr Richard Oliver, NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group Clinical Director, said: “In Sheffield, NHS 111 is taking all calls when your GP surgery is closed. If, having spoken to NHS 111, you need to see a clinician urgently, then details will be passed through to the appropriate clinical service.

“Across the Yorkshire and Humber region the new service is taking over 2,000 calls a day on a weekday and typically double that at a weekend, and feedback has been very positive.”

This week the Government’s Commons Health Select Committee raised concerns over 111.

Chair Stephen Dorrell said: “We are concerned that having to speak to a call handler and going through a laborious triage process will only encourage patients to see A&E as their first port of call.”

For urgent dental care patients in Sheffield should still call 0844 7368440, rather than 111.