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New 111 number set to swamp GPs

26th January 2011

A pilot scheme for the new 111 urgent care number has suggested that GPs could be swamped with calls.

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Early findings from the pilots found that 80% or more of patients were being funnelled straight to primary care after dialling the single urgent care number.

An evaluation of a scheme in County Durham and Darlington found that 85% of callers were referred to primary care.

Most went through to GP practices while some were put on to urgent care centres, nurse-led services or pharmacists.

Dr Agnelo Fernandes, the RCGP’s clinical champion for urgent and emergency care and a member of the Department of Health Urgent and Emergency Care Governance Board, said: “It depends on the nature of the call and the time of day, but 85% is significantly higher than would be expected.”

The scheme looks set to be rolled out nationally at the end of next year following four pilots of the 111 number. In others, around 50% of callers were told to see their family doctor, while the Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire pilots found that 55% of patients were referred to their GP.

Dr Katherine Noble, clinical lead for the NHS County Durham and Darlington pilot, said there had been some GPs hostile to the scheme but they were a minority.

She felt the referral rate would not cause a surge in GP workload.

“The 85% is a big number but not all of that proportion will see their GP. What the patient are advised and what they do may be different things,” added Dr Noble.

 

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