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NHS 111 sends increasing number of callers to A&E over last three years


22 February 2017

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NHS 111 is sending a higher proportion of people to A&E and ambulances compared with three years ago, a leading think tank has said.

The Nuffield Trust’s report, which uses data from NHS England’s weekly winter operational updates, found that since the service started in 2013 the number of people being sent to A&E or an ambulance has increased from around 150,000 a month to over 200,000.

As a proportion of the total number of NHS 111 callers, around 3% more people are being sent to emergency services now than they were three years ago.

NHS 111 is sending a higher proportion of people to A&E and ambulances compared with three years ago, a leading think tank has said.

The Nuffield Trust’s report, which uses data from NHS England’s weekly winter operational updates, found that since the service started in 2013 the number of people being sent to A&E or an ambulance has increased from around 150,000 a month to over 200,000.

As a proportion of the total number of NHS 111 callers, around 3% more people are being sent to emergency services now than they were three years ago.

Prof John Appleby, Nuffield Trust chief economist and director of research, said it was a ‘concern’ that the proportion of callers sent to A&E has increased.

But he added that even more would have used emergency services if they hadn’t been able to call NHS 111.

A survey of callers found that the service is reducing pressure on emergency services, as 45% of people would have gone to A&E if 111 wasn’t available, while call handlers actually only send around 20% to these services.

But the researchers said that primary care is still ‘the main destination for 111 callers’.

The same survey found that just over a third would have gone to primary and community services if 111 wasn’t available but call handlers actually send around 60% of callers to primary care.

Jonathan Ashworth MP, shadow health secretary, said the figures are ‘further evidence’ that the winter pressures in A&E this year ‘are the result of a catalogue of bad choices by the Government’.

He said: ‘The decision to scrap NHS Direct and replace it with the NHS 111 was strongly criticised by health professionals, and today we have learned that NHS 111 is sending more callers, and a higher proportion, to A&E than in previous years, with great variations in performance across different regions.’

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