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News : ‘New Front Door’ Unveiled for NHS 111 and GP Out-of-hours
London, UK, Oct 21 2015 -- NHS 111 and GP out-of-hours services will be integrated to provide patients with a "new front door" to urgent health care services.
Commissioners will be asked to establish ‘urgent care clinical hubs’ which will provide clinical advice and support to patients and to health professional working in out-of-hospital settings.
"Some of the clinicians and professionals that make up these hubs may be physically located in the Integrated Urgent Care call centre and provide a 24/7 presence, but more often they will provide this advice from their normal place of work," says NHS England.
New commissioning standards published by NHS England will underpin the new format, bringing together call handling and assessment, clinical advice and treatment under a single commissioning framework.
Professor Keith Willett, NHS England’s Director for Acute Care, is heading the review. He commented: "A fundamental redesign of the NHS urgent care ‘front door’ is much needed and now underway. This includes A&E, GPs, 999, 111, Out of Hours, community and social care services. Let’s make finding urgent help simple – 111 if it can’t wait until tomorrow, and 999 for real emergencies.
"Most patients access urgent healthcare through their own GP practice in the daytime and we expect this will remain the first point of contact in the future. But around the clock the ‘111’ number will find you GP and other urgent health care advice – so it makes sense to align the GP out of hours calls behind the same ‘111’ number.
"The 111 ‘front door’ is already directing people to who can best help them locally; this is taking a massive weight off our hospital A&E teams, our 999 ambulance paramedics and our busy GPs."
Included in the commissioning standards guidance are examples of integrated care advice service roles covering dental pain, mental health and pharmacy. It points out that the 2014-15 Winter Resilience plans included a pan-London pharmacy hub at one of the NHS 111 provider contact centres in the London Central and West (LCW) Unscheduled Care Collaborative.
Pharmacists worked Saturdays and Sundays from 9am to midnight taking medication calls that came directly via locally arranged interactive voice recognition (IVR) for London. A call handler answered the calls initially and screened out any acute symptomatic patients. A pharmacist then called the patient usually within an hour.
The hub handled "an average of about 100 calls each day staffed by one pharmacist available at any one time and two at peak times. The pharmacists were able to close 95% of all the calls themselves and any referrals were most often to contact GP Out-of-hours to request a prescription," says the report.
"Plans are underway to develop the pan-London pharmacy hub as part of an integrated clinical advice team that can support a wider range of calls that come via the usual NHS 111 route and via the IVR at peak times. Supporting call handlers to manage the repeat prescription requests will be an important part of the activity so that patients can be referred on to community pharmacy or GP Out-of-hours services where appropriate."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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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: Thursday, October 22, 2015