People living in Lancashire and South Cumbria are being encouraged by the NHS to get the help they need from the convenience of their own homes ahead of winter.
The NHS 111 online service is available to provide urgent help on a wide range of health problems. The service is best equipped to direct people to the most appropriate local treatment option such as GPs, pharmacy consultations, a call-back from a nurse, or urgent treatment centres.
People should still call 999 and go to A&E in an emergency – when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk.
Dr David Levy, medical director for NHS Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board, which plans and buys health services for the region, said: “The online 111 service is a great way to get some quick advice on what to do if you are unsure about an urgent but non-emergency health complaint.
“By typing in a few details the system will quickly help you get the right care from the right place at the right time.
“By doing this, you can help yourself but also support your NHS during what we anticipate is going to be a particularly busy winter.”
It is estimated up to two fifths of A&E attendances are avoidable or could be better treated elsewhere, but there is a range of different care options which are not only more convenient, but can also help relieve pressure on already busy emergency departments.
The online service can be found at 111.nhs.uk and asks people to enter their postcode, age, sex, and main symptom – from there, they will be asked a series of questions about their health concern.
The latest published data showed it was the busiest ever October for A&E attendances and most serious ambulance callouts, with more than 2.17million patients attending emergency departments in England, while ambulance services responded to 83,986 life-saving calls.
Extensive work is already under way to boost capacity ahead of winter including through expanding rapid response teams to help people who have fallen at home, and increase the number of call handlers working in NHS 111 and 999.
New 24/7 system control centres are also being created in every local area to manage demand and capacity across the entire country by live tracking beds and attendances.
Using NHS 111 online services – which are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week – where possible, will also enable the 111 phone service to triage more people with urgent issues.
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director said: “Last month our hard-working staff contended with another record month of A&E attendances and the most serious ambulance call-outs, which is only the tip of the iceberg of the growing pressures that the NHS is facing this winter, including the threat of a ‘twindemic’ of COVID-19 and flu, and reduced hospital capacity caused by issues discharging patients into social care.
“This new campaign will remind the public that NHS 111 online is available to signpost people to the best option for their care needs ahead of winter -it can provide the most appropriate local treatment option for medical issues quickly without needing to leave your home and saving you an unnecessary trip to A&E.
“It is vital that people continue to use A&E and call 999 in an emergency so as ever, please do come forward for the care you may need.”
The NHS is also continuing to roll out the autumn COVID-19 booster programme at speed, with more than half of those eligible receiving their top-up in just two months, and more than 14million receiving their flu jab.
Those eligible for their autumn top-up are able to attend one of more than 200 walk-in sites or book an appointment on the National Booking Service, and book flu vaccinations through their GP practice or by visiting one of the many thousands of participating community pharmacies.
Through 111.nhs.uk people can:
- find out how to get the right healthcare in their area, including whether they need to see a GP or seek urgent care
- get advice on self-care
- get a call back from a nurse, doctor or other trained health professional if they need it
People should call 111 to speak to someone if they need to:
- Discuss complex medical problems
- Get medical advice for a child under five