Long waits for Sheffield NHS 111 callers

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Patients calling the NHS 111 helpline in Sheffield are waiting too long to speak to a clinician - and more than average are being sent to hospital.

Less than a third of people who contact the telephone service and need to be called back by a nurse or paramedic are rung within 10 minutes, according to the most recent figures.

A report to NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group’s governing body says the number of patients sent to A&E or told they need an ambulance is higher than the national average, while poor performance at weekends is causing concern.

Health chiefs are discussing an improvement plan. Extra call handlers have been recruited, as well as more trained pharmacists and dental advisors.

The 111 service started in Sheffield last July, provided by Yorkshire Ambulance Service.

It is intended for people with urgent but non life-threatening symptoms, and replaced NHS Direct.

In November the helpline dealt with 7,218 calls from city residents.

Across the region, nearly 95 per cent of calls were answered within 60 seconds.

But in Sheffield, just over 32 per cent heard back from a clinical advisor within 10 minutes - set against a target of 100 per cent - while less than 40 per cent were transferred directly to another provider, such as out-of-hours GPs.

The report said targets had been ‘consistently missed’.

More than 60 per cent of callers were directed to primary care services, with 11 per cent told to call 999 for an ambulance. Over five per cent were sent to A&E.

Idris Griffiths, the CCG’s chief operating officer, said: “We have already seen an improvement since November. In particular the service performed extremely well over the festive period.

“In the last week the average wait for a call-back from a clinician varied from between five minutes to 36 minutes.”

Mr Griffiths said a recent survey reported ‘good levels of satisfaction’ with NHS 111.