NHS 111 service ‘working well’ in Norfolk, say health chiefs

East of England Ambulance Service logo.

East of England Ambulance Service logo. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Health chiefs say that Norfolk's new non-emergency number is 'working well', despite controversy over the 111 service in other parts of the country.

The NHS phone line was thrown into turmoil last week after NHS Direct pulled out of two contracts in North Essex and Cornwall.

However, officials in Norfolk said they had no complaints about the 111 service being delivered by the East of England Ambulance Service, despite some initial teething problems.

A pilot 111 service was launched in Norfolk in December and is delivered by staff in the Hellesdon control room in Norwich.

In April, the service received more than 19,000 calls from patients in Norfolk.

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A spokesman for Norfolk's Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), who took on the responsibility for commissioning NHS 111 earlier this year, said: 'After some initial difficulties and a review of the system, the Norfolk 111 service is now working well and meeting the standards required by the commissioners.'

The 24/7 NHS 111 service aims to makes it easier for the public to access healthcare services when they need medical help fast, but when it is not a life-threatening situation. Call handlers aim to give patients advice and direct them to the right local service.

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A spokesman from the East of England Ambulance Service, said: 'The service is used well by Norfolk residents, and we're receiving about 5,000 calls every week, the bulk are at weekends when the GP surgeries are closed. Our level of compliments have increased and we're always learning how we can improve the level of service to them.'

NHS Direct won 11 of the 46 contracts for the 111 service, but it said it could not provide the service in North Essex and Cornwall because the contract terms were 'financially unsustainable'.

The NHS 111 line, which replaced NHS Direct as the number to call for urgent but non-emergency care, has been riddled with controversy since its inception on April 1.

The line suffered many teething problems, with patients complaining of calls going unanswered, poor advice given and calls being diverted to the wrong part of the country. The British Medical Association has also called for an independent inquiry into the 'disastrous' roll out of the service.

A Department of Health spokesman said: 'The majority of the country has a good NHS 111 service but we know that there are still problems in a few areas. It is only right that NHS England and the NHS Trust Development Authority both work closely with NHS Direct to help it offer a high quality NHS 111 service.'

The 0845 4647 NHS Direct number remains in place in areas where NHS 111 is not yet live.

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