From next week, people on the Fylde coast who need urgent NHS care are being asked to call NHS 111 before they decide to walk in to A&E.
To ensure social distancing in the Emergency Department waiting areas, people who do not need an ambulance are being asked to contact NHS 111 for an appointment before attending. The service will then book them a time slot at the Emergency Department at Blackpool Victoria Hospital or at the most appropriate health service for the patient.
The new approach, in place from Tuesday 25 August, will ensure that patients can access the clinical service they need, first time. Patients who need to be seen in the Emergency Department (A&E) will be able to be seen and treated quicker.
The Fylde coast is the first region in the North West to implement the new nation-wide system. Other areas across the region will start to introduce the new system through the autumn. NHS 111 First is being rolled out nationally by December.
Dr Anthony Kearns, Head of Department for Emergency Medicine at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “This is about improving our offer to patients by helping them to access the right service quickly and, importantly, about keeping them safe in a COVID-19 world, when we need to carefully manage the numbers of people in our Emergency Department.
“People who need emergency care should still call 999. Those people who are not in serious danger but need urgent attention should now contact NHS 111 either by telephone or online.
“They will be spoken to by a trained professional and a clinician if needed. If it is decided they should go to the Emergency Department then they will be given a suitable time to attend and staff at the hospital will be expecting them. The added bonus is that the staff in the Emergency Department won’t have to do any further triaging or initial assessments as that will already have been done by NHS 111. That means the patient will be seen and treated faster.”
Nationally, around 70 per cent of people attending Emergency Departments had just walked in and the majority of those could have been seen through other services such as the urgent treatment centres, GP or even pharmacy. On the Fylde coast, around 30 per cent of attendances to the Emergency Department are people walking in unannounced.
For those living in rural areas the change could prevent unnecessary trips to hospital as there may be cases where treatment can be offered nearer to home.
Anyone who attends the Emergency Department (A&E) without an appointment from NHS 111 will still be seen but could be directed to other services for treatment. Those with appointments from NHS 111 will also be given priority unless there is a medical need.
People with life threatening conditions that need emergency attention should still call 999. Likewise, if the condition is not serious they should still seek advice from their pharmacy or make an appointment with their GP.