Drop in number of NHS 111 calls being sent to A&E in Lincolnshire

The number of NHS 111 helpline callers in Lincolnshire being referred to A&E fell to 17 per cent in June 2018.

According to newly released data from NHS England, the service recommended 2,649 patients go to A&E or called an ambulance to pick them up.

Less callers to NHS 111 are being referred to A&E in Lincolnshire

Less callers to NHS 111 are being referred to A&E in Lincolnshire

Nationally, NHS 111 has been sending an increasing percentage of callers to A&E.

But Lincolnshire referred a smaller proportion than in June 2014, the first year of full national service for 111.

During that period, 22 per cent of all calls were sent to casualty - 2,560 people.

NHS 111 is a 24-hour helpline for patients who need medical help fast but do not need to call 999, taking over from NHS Direct and GP out-of-hours services in 2014.

The service has become increasingly popular. Lincolnshire handled 15,231 calls in June 2018, up from 11,499 four years earlier.

It referred 48 per cent of these to primary care, such as GP surgeries or dental care.

Around one per cent of them were advised to rest at home.

The service is commissioned by local clinical commissioning groups, which make spending decisions for local health services.

The helplines are run by ambulance trusts, GP surgeries and private healthcare companies.

Nationally, there is significant variation in the number of A&E referrals by each service. Devon NHS 111 sent 28 per cent of all callers to A&E in June 2018, while Hertfordshire sent just 13 per cent.

NHS 111 replaced NHS Direct, which employed nurses and other clinical staff, in 2014.

Now, most calls are dealt with by staff with no clinical background working to a set script, although around a fifth are referred to nurses or paramedics.

Adam Steventon, director of data analytics at the Health Foundation, said: “There is broad recognition that a large number of people calling NHS 111 are being directed to A&E and NHS England have stepped up the amount of clinical input available to those seeking help through this route to try and tackle this.

“In looking at the impact of making more clinicians available in NHS 111 call centres, we found that children and young people who were reviewed by a GP were less likely to go on to A&E than other patients.

“However, the lower levels of attendances were focussed on minor treatment units, with little evidence that review by a GP reduced attendances at major A&E departments, which is where most of the pressure is.”

The Nuffield Trust, an independent health think tank, last year released an analysis warning about the increasing proportion of people being sent to A&E.

The report said: “The decision to scrap NHS Direct and replace it with the NHS 111 was strongly criticised by health professionals, and today we have learned that NHS 111 is sending more callers, and a higher proportion, to A&E than in previous years, with great variations in performance across different regions.”