Article for NHS SoE The Month – December 2011 issue
30 November saw the launch of the procurement of the NHS 111 service across the south
east coast area.
The introduction of NHS 111 is part of a suite of improvements being made to urgent and
emergency care services for patients – simplifying access, enhancing patient experience
and ultimately improving health outcomes.
Rachel Harrington, Head of Urgent Care at NHS South of England (East), said: “Each year
in Kent & Medway, Surrey and Sussex more than one and a half million people go to A&E,
but many of them would be more appropriately treated elsewhere in the health service, in the
community or even in their own home. Research shows us that people find it difficult to know
which bit of the NHS is right for them when they have an urgent need that isn’t serious
enough to call 999 or go to A&E. As a result, many people choose to go to their local A&E by
“We need to change that culture, by making it easier for patients to get to the right care
setting first time, regardless of which point of the health service they approach first.
“111 is a big step towards that goal. It will be free to call and will be available 24 hours a day,
365 days a year. It will provide a clinical assessment at the first point of contact, without the
need to call patients back, and will direct people to the right NHS service, first time.”
NHS 111 will work alongside the 999 emergency service so will be able to despatch an
ambulance without delay and without the need for the patient to repeat any information.
The plans for the service in the south east coast area have drawn on learning from existing
pilots. Tenders are due by February 2012, with an announcement of contract award
expected in the spring. NHS 111 will be up and running across Kent & Medway, Surrey and
Sussex by 1 April 2013 at the latest.