A NON-EMERGENCY telephone number for around-the-clock access to NHS services is to be rolled out nationally.
The 111 line, which has been piloted in a small number of areas including east Durham, will be set up nationally to give advice but also organise care as appropriate from GPs, community nurses or an ambulance.
The Government hopes it will reduce confusion and effectively abolish the concept of “out-of-hours” in the NHS.
The line, which will replace that provided by NHS Direct, is to be made available nationally by April 2013.
NHS Direct is expected to “retain a role” in the delivery of the 111 service, which will be staffed by call advisers supported by nurses.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: “The new 111 service will mean patients can access the whole of the NHS through just one simple number.”
“This marks another important step in modernising the NHS and giving patients greater control and choice over their healthcare.”
Dr Clare Gerada, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: “Not only will callers to the service be advised on what to do but also to be directed to the appropriate local service to address their need consistently.
“However, patients should be aware that this is not a replacement for the current system and that they can continue to call their GP practice as normal.”