THE NHS 111 service in Sussex is being enhanced and patients can expect a more robust response with the same expert advice now delivered by a wider range of healthcare professionals.

GPs, paramedics, nurses, mental health professionals, dental nurses and pharmacists will be part of the enhanced NHS111 clinical assessment service which launched yesterday.

People who call 111 – free from mobiles or landlines 24/7 – or access the service via www.111.nhs.uk will speak to call handlers and/or healthcare professionals who will be able to assess symptoms over the phone, issue prescriptions and directly book people into onward care appointments if they need one.

As the lead provider, South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) is working in conjunction with not-for-profit social enterprise Integrated Care 24 (IC24) to deliver the enhanced service.

The new five-year contract was awarded in August 2019 by NHS commissioners in Kent, Medway and Sussex and is valued at £90.5m (£18.1million in 2020/21). SECAmb and IC24 already provided NHS111 to parts of the south east separately but will now work together to deliver a more joined up service.

The original go-live date of 1 April 2020 was postponed due to heightened demand brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, and SECAmb’s interim contract was extended to bridge the spring/summer season allowing the team to focus on the immediate response.

At the peak of the pandemic, 111 health advisors were handling almost four times the usual daily call numbers. NHS111 continues to play an integral role during the pandemic, helping patients access essential NHS services and receive the care they need from the most appropriate place.

The launch of the contract and clinical assessment service is the first of several enhancements via the NHS 111 service for patients across Kent, Medway and Sussex.

Over the coming months, NHS111 will integrate more closely with SECAmb’s 999 service and existing out-of-hours care, including providing access to evening and weekend GP appointments, home visiting services, minor injury units, urgent treatment centres and A&E departments.

Across the NHS, by the end of the year, patients will also be booked a timeslot at Emergency Departments if this is deemed the most appropriate service to help and support them.

SECAmb Deputy Chief Executive and Senior Responsible Officer for NHS111, David Hammond, said:

“The SECAmb 111 and Integrated Urgent Care team have done an exceptional job in expanding our call handling capability and clinical assessment service, to include a wider spectrum of healthcare professionals and onward care services, whilst delivering a solid interim service under the most challenging of circumstances. I would like to thank everyone involved in achieving this and for continuing to develop NHS111 so as to better support our patients and NHS partners across Kent, Medway and Sussex.”

Andrew Catto, Chief Executive of Integrated Care 24 said:

“This enhanced service provides us with a really exciting opportunity to partner with South East Coast Ambulance Service to continue to deliver high quality care across the south east. We have a long history of providing services across Kent and Sussex and are delighted to have the opportunity to continue to serve patients across two large counties.

“NHS111 is increasingly being seen as the gateway to urgent care and we are proud to be able to support our patients on a 24/7 basis through the delivery of this service.”

NHS111 Clinical Lead for Sussex, Dr Victoria Beattie said:

“NHS111 will be pivotal in ensuring patients get access to the right care, at the right time and place for their symptoms. The new clinical assessment service will mean patients can talk to a doctor or healthcare professional sooner, giving patients real confidence in the care they will receive.”

Senior Responsible Officer for NHS111 in Kent and Medway, Stuart Jeffery added:

“We are confident that by working with the ambulance service and IC24, we will be in a good position to build the foundations for integrating urgent care across our regions and are looking forward to improvements to help people receive the right care in the right place at the right time. NHS111 should be the first call for urgent medical needs.”

SECAmb and IC24 continue to develop their workforces and offer a range of exciting roles, spanning both emergency and urgent care services, which can be viewed via www.secamb.nhs.uk and www.ic24.org.uk