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Saturday 24th August 2019

999 alternative considered in NI

16th September 2011

A new helpline number is being considered in Northern Ireland in a bid to cut unnecessary referrals to Accident and Emergency departments.


Figures show that last year 22% of callers who rang 999 did not need emergency help.

Now, Health Minister Edwin Poots is considering a system along the lines of the 111 national helpline number, which is currently being piloted in parts of England and is for patients who need urgent help but whose lives are not at risk.

However, Mr Poots has said he will wait for the outcome of the health and social care sector review before reaching a decision.

He said: “The use of a single contact number to assess requests for urgent assistance and match them with services in a patient’s local area is an initiative successfully being applied by the NHS in Great Britain.

“I am keen to explore how this approach might benefit users and services here, by reducing unnecessary referrals to A&E departments for example.”

With callers dialling 999 for assistance including things like toothache, the director of operations at Northern Ireland’s Ambulance Service Brian McNeill said paramedics’ time was being wasted with unnecessary and hoax calls.

He said. “That is all wasting resources. Those vehicles could all be on standby for the next life threatening call and if they are not available that could be very dangerous.”

The British Medical Association’s GP committee also said that a number of people are also confused when to use the GPs’ out of hours service.


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