Patient satisfaction on the rise for NHS111 despite calls increase

More patients recommend service to family and friends

Satisfaction with the North East’s NHS111 service continues to improve – despite an increase of more than 50,000 calls over the last year.

As the region’s NHS111 provider, North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) randomly selects around 1,500 NHS111 callers each month to find out about their experience of using the service using a survey called the Friends and Family Test (FFT).

Statistics from the last year show satisfaction levels continue to grow within the NHS111 service, with the latest FFT feedback from September 2017 showing 91.2% of patients would recommend the service to their family and friends.

This is in spite of an increasing number of calls; between July and September 2017, NHS111 call handlers answered 208,674 calls – compared to 158,661 during the same period last year.

During this time, there have been a number of improvements, particularly from patients who reported feeling reassured by the service, having their problem resolved, and being able to speak to a call handler straight away.

The latest survey results come following a win at the Bright Ideas in Health Awards, held at the Hilton Hotel Newcastle Gateshead on November 15.

NEAS won the Primary and Community Care Category in recognition of its service which allows NHS111 call handlers to book GP appointments directly into a patient’s surgery on their behalf.

Before the GP direct booking service was available, patients who were advised to see their GP following the NHS111 assessment were expected to make an appointment themselves. As well as the inconvenience and delay to the patient, this carried the risk of a patient not being able to get an appointment and subsequently calling NHS111 again or attending an urgent care centre or an A&E department.

NEAS began working with the region’s GPs in April 2016 as part of a pilot funded by the North East Urgent and Emergency Care (NEUEC) Vanguard and supported by North of England Commissioning Support Unit (NECS).

Together they developed a process of electronic booking of appointments via NHS111 into a patient’s registered GP without the need for any follow up calls, which was rolled out across the whole of the North East region in June 2016 to 331 GP practices.

Having been the first NHS111 provider to successfully implement this process for the whole region, NEAS is now supporting other providers to launch similar services in their areas.

The service was also shortlisted in the Improving Care with Technology category at this year’s Health Service Journal Awards.

Louise Wright, of Sunderland, is one of the patients to have benefited from the GP booking service.

She said: “It’s taking the pressure off 999 when it’s not an emergency, it’s taking the pressure off the GPs and the pressure off yourself having to wait for an appointment. It’s nice to have the reassurance that it’s there, I think it’s a brilliant service.”

Yvonne Ormston, NEAS Chief Executive, said: “Members of the public often think of our service being all about 999 and emergency care but we are so much more than that.

“As the regional provider for both NHS111 and 999, we are able to provide a seamless and consistent service to patients throughout the North East. I am incredibly proud of the service our employees provide, not just on a day to day basis but on a wider level, working hard to implement change to improve patient care and support the local healthcare economy.

“It’s great to see those efforts recognised at a local and national level, and to see an increase in the number of patients recommending the service they have received, especially given the rise we have seen in calls over the last 12 months.“

The GP booking service is one of a number of innovations by NEAS in a bid to improve the service for NHS111 patients.

A pilot is currently underway with Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW) and Tees Esk Wear Valley (TEWV) to offer a service for people who call into NEAS experiencing suicidal thoughts but have not hurt themselves and do not pose an imminent risk to themselves.

These patients would normally be advised to attend an emergency department within an hour and if that patient did not have their own transport, they would generate an ambulance. They often then self-discharge before being assessed by a mental health specialist and re-contact NHS111, triggering the same disposition and finding themselves in a loop without successful conclusion.

By working with NTW and TEWV, dual trained 999 and NHS111 call handlers are now able to transfer these callers straight through to a crisis mental health service and then signposted to the most appropriate pathway.

In recognition of the fact the service is improving patient care and reducing the pressure on frontline resources, the service was a finalist in the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Category at the recent Bright Ideas in Health Awards. 

NEAS is now building on these innovations with a new dedicated telephony line providing paramedics, care home staff and pharmacists in the community direct access to senior clinicians within NEAS’s Clinical Assessment Service for support and advice.

And, as part of a national project, NHS111 call handlers will also be able to refer patients to their nearest community pharmacist from next month.

Currently less than 1% of all NHS111 referrals are made to a community pharmacy and patients typically ending up somewhere else in primary care such as GP services, walk-in centres and, in some cases, A&E.

With this new Community Pharmacy Referral Service (CPRS), if the patient’s symptoms dictate that they could be assessed and treated by a community pharmacist, the NHS111 call handler will be given a list of nearby pharmacies.

Details of the call will then be securely transferred electronically to the receiving pharmacy and the patient will be assessed by a fully qualified pharmacist in a private consultation room and provided with advice and guidance on how to manage their symptoms, which may include an over the counter medication to treat their ailment.

If the pharmacist determines that the patient’s symptoms require further assessment, or require additional tests and investigations to be carried out, they will assist the patient in making an appointment with their own GP.

NHS111 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is not a replacement for GPs and pharmacies but makes it easier for patients to access local health services, when they have an injury or illness which is not an emergency.

NHS111 helps take the pressure off the 999 service and local A&E departments, so they can focus on emergency cases. More than 80% of people who call NHS111 are referred to alternative services, with call handlers able to direct our patients to around 3,000 local services, such as walk in centres and GPs

More than half of call handlers are dual trained in answering both NHS111 and 999 calls, and have access to a multi-skilled Clinical Assessment Service, which is staffed by clinicians and GPs, within NEAS.

A video highlighting more patients’ stories is available to view here

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Copyright 2011 North East Ambulance Service Trust

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