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111 Service

The essential guide to 111 – the answers to the most frequent questions

 Q1       How does a 111 call handler diagnose down the phone when they can’t visually see me?

            We don’t diagnose, we rule out POTENTIAL diagnoses and once we get to a point where we cannot rule something out, the assessment ends and you are referred to the relevant level of care based on your symptoms. The referral could be either to an ‘in-house’ clinician, for further assessment/advice or to an ambulance response or to an external health care provider e.g. primary care service, a midwife, a dentist and so on.

 Q2.      Why are there so many questions?

             The 111 service uses a nationally recommended NHS Pathways assessment tool. This has been approved by the Royal Colleges and Dept of Health for use by 111 services in order to reduce patient risk and reduce life threatening issues first i.e. ABC (Airway, Breathing and Circulation) some of the question may not always seem relevant but are needed to provide you with a thorough assessment and the best outcome and care with your presenting symptoms.  We then match you with a service in your local area that can deliver the care within the recommended timeframe.

 Q3.      Are there any clinically trained staff in the 111 service?

 Yes, we have clinically trained staff on the phones in 111; they are made up of qualified nurses and paramedics. They take calls when the assessment requires their skills and experience.

 Call handlers are highly trained in both system and symptom recognition, if it is felt that a clinician is needed for a more in depth assessment, then we will either transfer you directly or they will call you back within a timeframe according to your clinical need.

 Q4.      Is the 111 service free from my telephone?

 Yes, it is free from both landline and mobile networks in the UK.

 Q5.      Can I still contact my GP directly or do I have to use the 111 service?

 You can of course contact your GP during the day, but many symptoms may require an onward referral to another service .  During the Out of hours period the 111 service will signpost you to the right care at the right time, first time.

 Q6.      Does my GP know if I have called the 111 service?

 As long as you are registered with a GP, we will electronically send your details to your GP at the end of the assessment.

 Q7.      What do I do if you recommend contact with a GP outside of GP surgery opening times?

 If the timeframe recommended falls outside of your GP surgery opening times, we will refer you to the GP out of hours service for you without any further input from you.

 Please notethat South Central Ambulance Service do not run the Out of Hours service.

 Q8.      Isn’t it better if I just self-present myself to an A&E department instead of using the 111 service?

 No as these departments are for emergencies only and in many cases, we may refer you to a local minor injury unit or other primary care service that may actually have more capacity for you to be treated more quickly in the first instance.

 Q9.      If you refer me to a ward for treatment, will I have to wait for ages to get seen?

 When we make an onward referral to a ward, we have a system which informs us of the capacity of the ward via a traffic light system which the hospital update throughout the day. If multiple choices appear, we can let you know which wards have the best capacity to see you thus reducing your potential wait time.

 Q10.    Who has designed the system used to assess me?

 The system is wholly owned and designed by the NHS for the NHS. It has been overtly designed with the help of the BMA (British Medical Association) and the Royal Colleges of Medicine, its clinical content is overseen by the National Clinical Governance Group.

 It has been the subject of a rigorous academic evaluation carried out by three universities (Sheffield, Southampton and Swansea) who declared it safe and appropriate. 

 The system and our operations procedure are constantly reviewed to keep up with any new practices.

 For more information please go to

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