By Local Democracy Reporter
A CAMPAIGN urging people to dial 111 before turning up at A&E has been crucial in easing pressure on the NHS as the Covid pandemic continues, it was claimed.
The new scheme – branded Think NHS 111 First – was launched on December 1 by the Mid and South Essex Hospital Trust, which oversees Basildon and Southend hospitals.
As part of the initiative, patients are encouraged to call NHS 111 first if they are feeling unwell, allowing them to get swift help and advice.
Patients are then be assessed over the phone and told if they need to attend hospital.
If patients calling 111 do need to go to A&E, they are be booked a time slot.
If the situation involves severe injuries or life-threatening conditions, people should still attend A&E.
Mark Tebbs, NHS Alliance director for Thurrock told Thurrock Council’s health and wellbeing overview and scrutiny committee, : “Since it has gone live, we are averaging 57 patients going through the process and we haven’t had any complaints.
“The pathway is working well, and it is reducing the waiting times and the crowdedness of A&E which is critical at this moment in time.”
Shane Ralph, chair of the committee, who represents Stanford East and Corringham Town, said he initially had concerns over people avoiding going to A&E during Covid-19 with other health problems.
He said: “I was worried when it was rolled out, mainly because there have been 5,000 extra heart attack deaths during Covid-19.
“However, in hindsight now I think it was a good decision to do this, it has probably taken so much weight of the A&E department.”
Contacting NHS 111 first means everyone will get the right treatment more quickly and most likely it will be closer to home as well.
Councillor Sara Muldowney said: “I’ve had some good feedback about the programme from residents.
“It seems like a no-brainer to have a triage system at a time when our A&E departments are getting over run and at a time when we are trying to do infection control during Covid-19.”