NHS 111 First FAQs

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NHS 111 First is a new service which is being rolled out nationally and aims to support patients to get the help they need from the right service at the right time, as well as reduce overcrowding and risk of transmitting COVID-19 in hospital emergency departments.

The scheme was introduced in Northamptonshire on 26 October 2020 to ensure our local processes were tested prior to the national launch on 1 December 2020.

Here we outline what the changes are and answer some of the frequently asked questions about what these changes mean for patients.

What is happening?

To ensure that patients get the right care as quickly as possible, waiting times are reduced in emergency departments, and ensure waiting areas don’t get overcrowded during the pandemic, patients are being asked to call NHS 111 first before going to their A&E – except in absolute emergencies.

NHS 111 will advise patients on whether there is a more appropriate service they could access and be seen quicker such as an Urgent Treatment Centre. If a patient needs to attend their closest emergency department NHS 111 will provide them with a time slot to attend.


Why is the change being made now?

The coronavirus pandemic has made it clear that we need to change the way we all access urgent and emergency care, to help reduce the risk of infection. To support social distancing, we need to make sure emergency departments really are for emergencies only. Waiting areas can often be crowded, putting patients at greater risk of COVID-19 and making it more difficult for staff to look after patients well.

To prevent this, the NHS wants to support as many people as possible to be seen quickly by other services that may be more appropriate for the needs of certain patients. This is why we’re asking patients to call NHS 111 before going to their Emergency Department.


What should I do if I have an emergency?

If you have an emergency, call 999 immediately or go straight to your Emergency Department (A&E). If you have a health issue that is not an emergency please contact your GP, call NHS 111 for advice or visit 111.nhs.uk.

What is classed as an emergency?

Emergencies include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Acute confused state and fits that are not stopping
  • Chest pain
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Severe burns or scalds
  • Stroke

If you think you are experiencing any of these it is vital you go straight to your Emergency Department or call 999.

Non-emergencies that could be seen by another appropriate local service for example could be earache or knee pain. While these may be uncomfortable you are unlikely to be in any danger and could be treated more appropriately somewhere other than you’re A&E. For these types of issues contact your GP, call NHS 111 or visit 111.nhs.uk.

If you feel your issue is urgent but not life-threatening – like a sprained ankle – calling 111 and getting a pre-booked appointment to attend A&E could reduce your waiting time in the department, allowing you to wait in the comfort of your own home until the Emergency Department is ready to see you.

If I go to A&E without calling NHS 111 First will I be turned away?

No-one experiencing a medical emergency will be turned away from the local emergency departments – you will always be treated urgently if your condition is severe or potentially life-threatening.

By asking those with less urgent issues to call NHS 111 first for assessment rather than going straight to their A&E, we aim to save patients time and get them the care most appropriate to their needs. You could be directed to a more appropriate service or one that can see you sooner. You may also be able to wait at home and avoid a long wait in a busy Emergency Department.


When I call 111, who am I speaking to and are they clinically trained?

You will speak to trained professionals who will either be or have direct access to healthcare clinicians, and who will be able to expertly assess the urgency of your condition or illness. They will direct you to the appropriate service, book you an appointment if needed, and/or tell you what to do next.


Why can’t I save myself the delay and just go straight to A&E?

NHS 111 can often provide health advice over the phone, or book you an appointment at an alternative service that is available. This will save you time. If you are told to go to an A&E, you will be booked in and staff at the hospital will be expecting your arrival which could save you time waiting in the emergency department.


Will I receive an appointment more quickly if I have a more urgent health need?

Yes, patients are always assessed and prioritised based on the urgency of their need.


If I call 111 and they say I need care from a non-emergency service, will they be able to make an appointment for me?

NHS 111 can make limited appointments for you at some local services such as a GP Practice or Urgent Care Centre. If 111 can’t make you an appointment at an alternative service immediately, they will direct you to the best service to meet your needs.


Do I need to call NHS 111 if I arrived at an A&E in an ambulance?

No, if you are brought to the hospital by an ambulance, this means that the ambulance staff think you need further help.


If a patient doesn’t have a car and they are given time slots to attend will an ambulance be sent to collect them?

No, an ambulance ill only be sent for a patient if their condition is classes as a medical emergency. If you are booked a time slot within the emergency department you will need to arrange your own transport to the hospital. If you think you are unable to attend within the time slot provided please tell NHS 111 at the time of your call.


If I call 111 and they give me an appointed time to attend the A&E what will happen if I can’t get there on time?

Please do try to stick to your appointment time, being late has a knock-on effect on the treatment of other patients, and your own care. Emergency Departments are very busy places and you may have to wait longer however you will still be seen.

What if my condition gets worse while I’m waiting at home?

This depends on the change in your condition; if you become seriously ill, call an ambulance, otherwise call NHS 111 again.


How do I cancel an appointment made by 111?

If you no longer need your appointment, please call NHS 111 to cancel it. Someone else may be able to use your time window.


If I’m told not to go to A&E, where else might I be directed to?

You may be directed to a pharmacist, your GP, or given advice on how best to self-care if your call advisor thinks you are safe to do so. You may also be directed to the Corby Urgent Care Centre, if you are unsure about what service is right for you, call NHS 111.


I have a complicated ongoing medical problem that is looked after by the hospital. When I get ill, I normally go straight to the A&E and they call the specialist to come and see me. Should I carry on doing this?

 If your specialist is normally notified of your attendance in an emergency department this will not change.


As stroke services are based at Northampton General Hospital, if I call NHS 111 First will I automatically be booked a time slot at this hospital rather than Kettering General Hospital?

Yes, if you need specialist services that are based at one hospital rather than the other NHS 111 will offer you a booked slot at the appropriate hospital.


How does this affect how I access GP Practices?

This service changes is specifically focused on those patients who feel they need to be seen within the emergency department. If you feel you need to be seen at your local GP Practice you should continue to access appointments at your surgery as you normally would.


Last updated: 03/12/2020