Deeside, Wales, March 22, 2021 -- The long-awaited free NHS 111 helpline finally looks set to be rolled out in North Wales.
The non-emergency service, which operates 24 hours a day, was first piloted in Bridgend, Neath Port Talbot and Swansea in 2016.
After the scheme was deemed a success, it was later announced in 2018 that it would be introduced across Wales.
However, there have been a number of delays to the helpline’s arrival in the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board area.
The hold ups attracted criticism from some politicians, with people in the region continuing to have to pay for calls to NHS Direct Wales to seek non-emergency medical advice.
Towards the end of last year, Health Minister Vaughan Gething indicated the 111 service would not be fully established in the area until 2022, but a report to Welsh Ambulance Service officials shows it could start to be brought in from this summer.
The latest update from the service’s chief executive Jason Killens states: "Whilst we reflect on how busy 2020 was for the 111 service in terms of supporting the pandemic response and receiving over 840,000 calls and answering over 580,000 calls (85%), the team are already in the middle of planning for another extremely challenging year.
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"2021 will see a year of growth and development; new services, new systems, new staff and site expansions.
"Along with Contact First, 111 will continue to roll out this year, with BCUHB planned for the summer.
"To support the significant developments within the 111 service, new IT systems and equipment is being delivered."
The free-to-call 111 service combines the NHS Direct Wales advice line for non-999 health calls with the out-of-hours GPs and the Welsh Ambulance Service.
While 999 should always be used in emergency situations, the service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing health information, advice and access to urgent out-of-hours primary care.
It allows GPs, pharmacists and nurses and call-handlers to arrange appointments, prescriptions, advice and home visits.
Mr Killens continued: "To support the service delivery, we are in the process of recruiting 90+ call handers and 55 clinicians, as well as a number of additional supportive staff; supervisors, management roles and senior clinical posts.
"The team are currently in the process of planning and providing training, and developing both Vantage Point House and Ty Elwy (St Asaph) to provide appropriate accommodation."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
NHS Direct is a 24 hour health advice and information service provided by the National Health Service (NHS) in England. NHS Direct provides confidential access to medical information, guidance and reassurance through a range of interactive services. These include an expert telephone advice line and detailed web resources.
Published: Wednesday, March 24, 2021
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