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Safety issues emerge with 111 service

GP receptionist on phone

BMA Cymru Wales has warned of ‘emerging issues’ with Wales’ 111 service as its national roll out was announced by the Welsh Government.

The 24/7 non-emergency helpline, which combines out-of-hours with NHS Direct Wales, has been piloted in the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Health Board and Carmarthenshire areas.

Announcing the national roll out of the service over the next three years, Welsh health secretary Vaughan Gething said: ‘I’m very encouraged to see evaluation which suggests a link between 111 and a decrease in ambulance conveyance.

‘It is also clear from feedback that this service has been valuable in supporting patients and helping the NHS to treat patients with urgent-care needs more effectively.

‘We’ve been open and honest about the pressure our emergency departments are under, particularly this winter. People can help make a difference by using our health service sensibly. The 111 service will support people to receive the most appropriate services for their needs, at the right time and in the right place.’

BMA Welsh GP committee chair Charlotte Jones said 111 should see a more streamlined service for patients and health care professionals, but added: ‘The design of the service makes perfect sense, but unfortunately, we are aware of several emerging issues regarding workforce sustainability, quality of triage and prioritisation of calls that need to be quickly addressed in order to make the service safe, sustainable, and effective for patients and staff alike.

‘We will discuss these issues directly with the 111 programme leads and Welsh Government in order to find solutions to improve the service.’

According to the Welsh Government, the pilot 111 service received more than 71,000 calls in the first six months of operation, with 95 per cent of survey respondents saying they were satisfied or very satisfied with the service.

An evaluation found a 1 per cent decrease in emergency department attendance in Abertawe Bro Morgannwg during the first six months of service.

There was also a reduction in ambulance conveyance to emergency departments. This change was mainly seen in non-urgent conveyances – down by just over 25 per cent during the evaluation period.

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