A NEW telephone number to help residents in Northumberland to access the most appropriate non-emergency medical services will be in place from next year.
Following a successful pilot in County Durham and Darlington, everyone else in the North East will be able to call 111 if they have an illness or injury that is less urgent than one that would require a 999 call.
This will help them to find out quickly the healthcare service which best meets their needs.
The number will go live in the North of Tyne region, which includes Northumberland, in April 2013.
It will be rolled-out and run by the North East Ambulance Service Foundation Trust in collaboration with Northern Doctors Urgent Care.
Programme Director Berenice Groves said: “People are often confused by the number and type of healthcare services available to them locally and NHS 111 is designed to simplify this decision making process.
“By encouraging people to talk to us before they set off, we aim to ensure patients are re-assured and then directed to those services that are closest to them and which can best meet their healthcare needs.”
She added: “We hope that by making sure patients access the most appropriate service in the shortest possible time, we will be able to deliver a positive patient experience, shorter waiting times and higher levels of patient satisfaction.”
To date, the NHS 111 service has answered more than 200,000 calls.
As a result, 42 per cent of callers were given a booked appointment at their local Urgent Care Centre or directed to their own GP, 11 per cent of calls resulted in an immediate ambulance response and six pe rcent of callers were directed to their nearest Accident and Emergency department.