A new service handling non-emergency medical calls for the whole of the North East began this month.
Earlier this year, North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) was awarded another five-year Integrated Urgent Care Service contract, worth £55 million.
The service is accessed through the successful, free-to-dial 111 telephone number, which was already provided by NEAS. It also incorporates a new Clinical Assessment Service (CAS), bringing together a range of clinicians with differing specialities such as advanced practitioners, GPs and pharmacists to help patients receive the most appropriate care for their needs.
The service operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, helping patients who need medical help fast but do not need to call 999.
The new service is designed to ensure that most patients’ problems are dealt with on their first call, including a consultation with a clinician where that is needed.
Health advisors and clinicians have access to a range of real-time information, including details of local services, such as GP extended hours schemes and community pharmacies, and have the ability to book appointments with local GPs, send prescriptions directly to a convenient pharmacy or dispatch an ambulance where that is necessary.
Future developments planned include the opportunity for patients to be able to receive the care information they would normally receive verbally over the phone by text message. Patients will also be able to receive appointment confirmations by text.
In order to accommodate more clinicians into the CAS as part of the new service, NEAS has opened a new base at Wynyard Business Park in Billingham, which has been named Winter House in memory of the Trust’s former chairman, Ashley Winter, who passed away in April 2018 following a short battle with cancer.
Winter House was officially opened by Dr Stephen Cronin, High Sheriff of the County Palatine of Durham, before a group of invited guests, including Ashley’s family, on 25 October.
NEAS chief executive Yvonne Ormston said: “Our service is perfectly placed at the heart of the region’s urgent and emergency care network, and this new services ensures patients can access quickly the healthcare service that best meets their needs.
“The commitment and dedication of the team who deliver the service – from management to call handlers and everyone in between – and the developments they have brought in have made our NHS111 service the success it is. This new service builds upon the work they have already started and we look forward to further developing the service with support from colleagues across the region.”