Patients living across the Hywel Dda University Health Board region can now dial 111 to access their GP Out of Hours service and NHS Direct Wales – making it easy to get the advice, support or treatment that is right for them all in one place.
The free-to-call phone number, which was launched as a pilot in Carmarthenshire last year, will make it easy for Hywel Dda patients to get urgent healthcare support if they are feeling unwell or if their own surgery is closed.
The scheme, which is being run in partnership between the health board, Welsh Ambulance Service and Welsh Government, is aimed at bringing the NHS Direct Wales and GP Out of Hours services together under one number and recruiting additional clinical and non-clinical staff.
People calling 111 will firstly speak to a specially-trained call handler who will ask a series of questions.
This will allow the service’s experienced healthcare professionals – nurses and, during evenings, weekends and bank holidays, GPs and pharmacists – to prioritise calls so the most seriously ill are treated first.
Depending on the urgency of their condition, callers will get a call back from a nurse, doctor or pharmacist advising them what to do.
If they need to see a GP out of hours, they will be asked to attend one of the primary care centres within Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion or Pembrokeshire, depending on where they live.
Crucially, call takers are trained to recognise when there is a threat to life. So people who dial 111 but really need an ambulance will be put straight through to the emergency ambulance service.
The 999 number should only be called in the event of a life-threatening emergency. If it isn’t an emergency but is nevertheless urgent, then patients will be able to call 111 instead.
Project director Richard Bowen said: “Currently within the NHS, access to urgent care services is really quite confusing.
“You don’t know what services are open when and, depending on your condition, you don’t know which healthcare professional would be the best person for you.
“What we want to do within Hywel Dda is to simplify all of that. So from now on you only have to dial 111 and you will be signposted to one of a range of different options.”
The 111 service has been operating successfully in Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board (ABMU) since October 2016, in Powys since October 3rd 2018 and the Hywel Dda launch is the next stage of what is planned to eventually be an all-Wales service.
Dr Richard Archer, Hywel Dda’s GP Out of Hours Lead for 111, said the out-of-hours service had traditionally not just been led, but also delivered by enthusiastic and committed local GPs.
He added: “In a time of increasing workload that is becoming challenging, it’s fantastic to be able to work with a wider group of professional colleagues including nurses and pharmacists. This will ensure our patients get the help they need as effectively and efficiently as possible.”
Chris Powell, the Welsh Ambulance Service’s Area Manager for 111/NHS Direct Wales, added: “We’re so pleased that patients in Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire will soon have access to this service, which residents in Carmarthenshire, Powys and the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg area are already benefitting from. This is another step towards a more modern approach to delivering urgent care and we look forward to building on the success of 111 and providing this service for everyone in Wales.”
For more information about NHS 111 visit: www.hywelddahb.wales.nhs.uk/OutofHours