Devon’s doctors are urging patients to use the NHS 111 system for health advice through the winter months as hospitals become increasingly busy.
The free to call service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and can provide patients with advice on any urgent issues that they may be facing.
The service is staffed by a team of fully trained medical advisers who are assisted by nurses and paramedics.
They are able to provide information on personal health, direct a patient to a walk-in centre or minor injuries unit and, if necessary, book an appointment with a GP.
If the issue is very serious, 111 staff can also arrange an ambulance.
In October 2016, a new Integrated Urgent Care Service launched in Devon, combining the NHS 111 and out of hours services, resulting in a more unified service for patients.
Since the introduction of the new contract in Devon, there has been an improved ability to provide a solution within a single call to 111, the number of patients who can speak to a clinician has increased and there are now faster response times to calls.
Dr Lisa Gibbons, GP and NHS 111 clinical lead for Devon, said “The 111 service is an invaluable source of information for patients at this time of year when our A&E departments are very busy.
“It is ready to give patients the advice they need by asking questions about the condition they are suffering and then advising them where to go.
“Advisers are able to book appointments over the phone, and if they think that you need an ambulance they can arrange it.
“Since the changes last year, the 111 service is now aligned more closely with out of hour’s care across Devon, providing all-round support for patients.”
The new arrangement means that people are more likely to be put through to clinicians and can receive better treatment when they can’t see a GP.
However, patients are reminded to contact 999 should there be a real emergency.
Dr Gibbons added: “After the new integrated urgent care services was introduced last year, we are now much better equipped to meet the demands of patients for out of hours and all non-emergency services.
“We aim to provide a comprehensive service for the region and the more information we can spread about available services, the better.
“A&E departments need to be able to concentrate on the most serious conditions, so if it is not an emergency please phone 111.”
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