Not just cold calls

A cold, a bout of flu or a sore throat – they’re all everyday ailments that can still cause concern, and they’re the most common conditions that prompt people to pick up the phone to dial the new non-emergency medical helpline 111.

But sometimes the person making the call is seriously ill and an ambulance has to be called – and these are usually the people that are most concerned about not troubling those working on the front line of the health service.

New medical healthline 111 call centre.

New medical healthline 111 call centre.

“We can have anything from life-threatening emergencies to common colds, to babies crying or very simple queries,” said 111 Herts service lead Kathleen Bailey.

The new number, which will eventually replace NHS Direct next year, serves a population of around 1.2 million people and was launched as a pilot in the county last month.

Operators receive on average 400 calls during each weekday, but that does up to around 1,200 on Saturdays and 1,100 on Sundays

Their busiest time is on Saturday morning from 9am to 11am.

Running around the clock, the free service, operated by Herts Urgent Care, is designed to ensure people are sent to the right services for their medical needs.

And that covers the whole range of medical response, from being advised to visit a neighbourhood pharmacy to being whisked to hospital by ambulance.

The aim is for the helpline to take pressure off A&E and 999 services by sorting out simple problems quickly while being alert to more serious conditions.

And yes, saving some valuable NHS cash is a factor, too.

>For the full feature, pick up a copy of this week’s Gazette - out on Wednesday, November 28.