Health bosses say 111 service is not a problem in county

John Knighton, medical director of Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust

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SIX months in to a new health service number being launched, bosses say the scheme is working well in Hampshire.

NHS 111 – which replaced NHS Direct – is the number to call for urgent healthcare needs that are not an emergency.

Nationally the service has been criticised, with providers pulling out of contracts.

In Hampshire, the number is provided by South Central Ambulance Service (Scas), and is paid for by the Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Since its launch in February, 217,620 calls have been taken.

Scas said that call waiting times have steadily improved since April. In June and July almost 96 per cent of the 70,000 calls received were answered within 60 seconds.

It is also meeting the target for transferring fewer than 10 per cent of calls to 999 – in the six months to the end of June, an average of just 5.22 per cent of calls were transferred.

Dr Jim Hogan, head of the Portsmouth CCG, said: ‘Our service is serving the population well, and is steadily improving in most key areas.

‘Many of the criticisms levelled at 111 elsewhere in England are not serious issues here.

‘We do acknowledge there is room for improvement in some areas. Since April, we have advised just over five per cent of calls to attend A&E, when our target is less than five per cent.

‘This clearly has an impact on our A&E colleagues, and is something that we are working to address.

‘There were difficulties in March, which included the Easter weekend, resulting in very high usage of the service – some 48,500 calls.

‘Scas worked intensively to put in place a number of changes, including further staff training and sharing of best practice around its call centres, and these have had a positive impact.

‘We’ll continue to monitor performance to ensure people who ring the service receive the best possible service – and I’m confident this has been the case for the vast majority of calls to date.’

Of the total number of calls made, Scas said that 91 resulted in a complaint.

This equates to 0.041 per cent of all calls answered in the past six months.