© Copyright David Anstiss and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence.

© Copyright David Anstiss and licensed for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence.

NHS 111 – the service being introduced to provide a single point of access for people needing urgent NHS healthcare, when it is not an emergency – will be fully up and running in Medway from next Tuesday (17 September).

Since March, callers who have wanted to contact their GP out-of-hours have been able to call NHS 111 or MedOCC (the out-of-hours GP service in Medway) directly. From Tuesday 17 September callers wanting to reach a GP when their surgery is closed should dial 111. All callers to GP practices out of usual practice hours, and anyone calling MedOCC direct will be asked to redial 111.

Anyone needing urgent medical help which is not a 999 emergency should call 111 where specially trained advisors will ask a series of questions and assess their need and direct them to the most appropriate local medical service. If the situation is an emergency, 111 advisors are able to arrange for an ambulance direct.

Dr Peter Green, Chief Clinical Officer for NHS Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “One of the aims of NHS 111 is to help people make the right choices about where to seek medical help so that services such as 999 and A&E can focus on life-threatening emergencies.

“Since the soft launch of NHS 111 across Kent and Medway in March, Medway has continued to offer patients direct access to the MedOCC out-of-hours service in tandem with NHS 111.

“Much work has gone on to rectify the difficulties experienced by NHS 111 nationally and locally when it first launched. Locally, the service has now moved from only taking calls for doctors out-of-hours services to providing the full 24-hour NHS 111 support service in Kent and, from 17 September, in Medway too. MedOCC has continued to support patients in Medway during this period and will work closely with NHS 111 in the future.”

From 17 September patients should call NHS 111 rather than calling MedOCC direct. Patients who call NHS 111 will largely be managed by NHS 111, since only those who need a face-to-face appointment will be passed to MedOCC and seen by one of the MedOCC GPs or nurses.

In addition to providing out-of-hours GP and nurse appointments, in response to requests from NHS 111, MedOCC will continue to support Medway GPs with additional appointments for their patients and the A&E team at Medway Maritime Hospital.

Dr Green added: “We are confident the NHS 111 service has improved significantly since the soft launch. Due to teething problems, an improvement plan was jointly agreed with the provider of NHS 111 and there has been a demonstrable improvement in performance over the past couple of months. We are confident the standards being attained are safe and in line with nationally standards and will continue to monitor performance.”