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Thousands fail to get Coronavirus advice as demand on NHS 111 service soars

PUBLISHED: 12:16 12 April 2020 | UPDATED: 12:16 12 April 2020

Thousands of callers failed to get advice from NHS 111 in March. PHOTO: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Thousands of callers failed to get advice from NHS 111 in March. PHOTO: Getty Images/iStockphoto

(C)2017 Igor Stevanovic, [**] Bits And Splits, all rights reserved

Thousands of calls to NHS 111 were abandoned in Norfolk and Waveney in March after a surge in patients seeking advice about Coronavirus.

Demand for the service rose by 66pc last month after people were urged to call for advice, rather than attending GP surgeries, pharmacies or hospitals, in an early bid to slow the spread.

Yet more than a third of the 53,649 calls in March were abandoned after people were left waiting in queues for at least 30 seconds, with just 8,350 calls answered within 60 seconds.

Dr Andrew Catto, chief executive of IC24, the organisation who provide the service for Norfolk and Waveney, said: “Since the outbreak of Covid-19, NHS 111 services across the country have, understandably, faced a significant increase in calls, and Norfolk and Waveney is no different. In February, our service received an average of 7,400 calls per week. In March, we peaked at over 15,300 in one week.

“To ease the demand on the telephone service, patients can also use 111 Online, as well as the online Coronavirus symptom checker.

“We are grateful for the amazing public support for the NHS and we are really proud of our team, and all healthcare workers, who are working extremely hard around the clock to support patients.

“Despite these increases, we would still encourage patients to contact us if they need us, or to call 999 if it is an emergency.”

In total, 18,119 calls were abandoned after at least 30 seconds, up from 525 in February, while less than half (48pc) of calls made were answered.

In February, 32,236 calls were made to NHS 111, with 28,964 were answered (90pc).

Ambulances were dispatched 2,784 times, while 1,507 callers were recommended to attend A&E.

Hundreds of extra call handlers had been trained across the country in a bid to help people seeking advice about the symptoms of coronavirus.

Cath Byford, chief nurse of the NHS Norfolk and Waveney CCG, said: “Our NHS111 service, like all of the NHS, is under the most incredible pressure brought on by the global Coronavirus pandemic.

“We would like to publicly thank all the staff for working exceptionally hard to support as many people as they can, in such difficult and unparalleled times.”

The NHS 111 online service can be accessed at www.111.nhs.uk


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