Simplifying the patient journey and improving the patient experience are among the key priorities for NHS111.
Dr Ossie Rawstorne, National Medical Adviser to NHS111, said as well as these aims, the ambition was for “the patient experience to be consistently good across the entire system”.
Speaking at the NHS111 Focus on Futures event held in Manchester, Dr Rawstorne told around 200 delegates: “The vision for NHS111 is around improving patient care and the efficiency of the service.
“We recognise within NHS111 that we need to be better at resolving patient problems at the first touch point in terms of both the breadth and depth of advice we offer them. And crucially patients want something that feels much more joined up and seamless.”
Dr Rawstorne explained that the aims of growing and improving the service – which already fields more than one million calls a month – had been prompted by the Five Year Forward View and the Urgent and Emergency Care Review.
“We want to simplify the patient journey, making the referral system a lot more seamless,” he added. “And we want there to be a more aligned patient experience between the in and out of hours periods.”
He said the service had learned a lot from the pressures of last winter in terms of the need and benefits of planning services in an integrated way.
“There is nothing outlandish or new in this as a concept, but we want to translate it into a roadmap where patients who contact NHS111 feel they are entering a system that really cares for them.”
He was supported by Rob Bacon, NHS111’s National Medical Director, who said: “Developing an integrated NHS111 will form an integral part of the urgent and emergency care service. We must continue to listen to patients who use the service, as well as clinicians and commissioners.”
Mr Bacon said the service has a long term future and has embarked on “a significant and complex programme of change, some of which will take three to five years to complete”.
“There are great opportunities to advance the service as well as changing public perceptions,” he added. “We need a consistent application of best practice.”
Delegates were able to see in action an online version of the NHS111 phone service that uses a simplified version of the algorithm currently used by call handlers. The online tool is currently being tested in Birmingham with the aim for it to eventually be available to the public.
Beverley Bryant, NHS England’s Director of Digital Technology, explained how NHS111 is “setting the standard for the digital transformation of healthcare”.
“We are putting technology central to our strategic agenda,” she added.
Professor Jonathan Benger, National Clinical Director for Urgent Care, said NHS111 had “an integral role to play in the Urgent and Emergency Care transformation”.
He said the service had seen “a surge in contacts last winter”, adding: “Patients continue to go to A&E when they don’t need to, but they admit doing it due to the difficulty of accessing care outside of hospitals. As such, NHS111 is central to our vision for handling admissions to hospital.
“Beyond the initial call to NHS111 is the clinical pathway system. It is learning, responding and growing.
“NHS111 is a core component to the Urgent and Emergency Care Review. It’s essential it’s linked to all parts of the care network.”
Dr Geraldine Strathdee, National Clinical Director for Mental Health, paid tribute to the NHS111 team for “their willingness to help us in the field of mental health.”