Launch Of NHS 111 Medical Helpline Delayed

St Mary's Hospital

St Mary’s Hospital

The new NHS 111 helpline, which was due to go live in Scilly and Cornwall last month, will now be delayed until May.

In February, health bosses visited St Mary’s for a public meeting outlining the service, which is replacing the NHS Direct phone line and will be used to direct non-emergency cases to the right treatments.

Last year councillors voiced concerns over whether the unique nature of the islands would be taken into account when giving advice to callers. Carol Clarke from the former health watchdog LINk4Scilly, which has now become Healthwatch, said any case coming in from the islands should generate a flag on the system that says, ‘seek guidance.’

Procedures have since been agreed which allows for local a doctor to respond to out-of-hours incidents in Scilly and, uniquely in the UK, they’ll be keeping a local phone number too.

The launch has been delayed because of increased workload at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust, which saw eight wards closed due to the norovirus in March.

Andrew Abbott, NHS Kernow’s director of operations, said all agencies agreed that it wasn’t the best time to introduce the new NHS 111 phone number because of continued winter pressures across the health service.

He said it is vital that when new systems are introduced, they are done in a controlled way.

With the volume and sickness of patients being treated at the moment, we need to focus staff resources on them, said Andrew.

NHS 111 is now planned for launch on 23rd May and patients can continue to use NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.