NHS campaign reminds public to use NHS 111 online ahead of the festive season

The NHS is reminding people they can get assessed and directed to the care they need by using NHS 111 online without leaving the comfort of their homes, with new TV adverts running from today.

As part of the next stage of the NHS ‘Help Us, Help You’ campaign, television adverts will show people travelling to a range of healthcare settings on their sofas, armchairs or beds, as they answer questions about their health concern on NHS 111 online.

After entering answers about health needs online, the service makes an assessment and directs you to the best place for your care – this can include a consultation with a pharmacist, a call back from a nurse, or visiting a same day urgent treatment centre or A&E.

The latest phase comes as a new survey found almost two in five people (39%) did not know NHS 111 online can direct you to the right care in as little as 90 seconds.

Almost half of respondents (48%) had used the NHS 111 phone service, but only 9% had used the online service. Nearly a third (31%) of respondents hadn’t used either.

In a medical emergency – when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk – you should continue to either go to A&E or phone 999.

Ahead of further industrial action next week (Tuesday and Wednesday), the NHS has said that people should continue to access emergency care and will contact anyone whose appointment has to be rescheduled. NHS staff have been working hard to put local plans put in place to minimise disruption to patients as a result of strikes.

Figures show more than 6.5 million people used the NHS 111 online service in the last 12 months, with an average of 20,000 users being directed to the right support every day according to the latest data.

Separate weekly winter data, published on Thursday, shows the NHS 111 service received a significant number of calls from December 5-11, with more than 700,000 calls in that week alone – an increase of over 60% compared to the week prior (from 440,047 to 706,129).

The NHS has prepared extensively for winter, launching 24/7 ‘healthcare traffic control centres’ to manage demand and capacity across the country, boosting hospital and community bed capacity, expanding rapid response teams to help people who have fallen at home, and increasing the number of call handlers working in NHS 111 and 999.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS National Medical Director, said: “Last month our hard-working staff contended with another record month of A&E attendances and the most serious ambulance call-outs, alongside winter viruses that are seeing rapidly increasing numbers of patients in hospital with flu and Covid – new figures show a huge increase in calls to NHS 111, which is understandable with concerns about these winter viruses – including strep A.

“TV ads that are being launched this week will remind people how easy it is to get healthcare advice from the online service – it is available 24/7 and can provide the most appropriate local treatment option for non-emergency medical issues quickly, without needing to leave your home.

“It is vital that people continue to call 999 in an emergency so, as ever, please do come forward for the care you may need.

“Ahead of further industrial action this week, the NHS is encouraging people to continue to come forward for the care they need and if you haven’t been contacted about your appointment, please attend as you normally would.”

The latest monthly performance statistics show staff working in A&E dealt with more attendances (2,166,710) than any previous November on record. Alongside this, there were 81,655 category 1 incidents in November – the most serious ambulance callouts – the highest November total on record.

Patient Steve Wright, 38, from Levenshulme, Manchester said: “I’d been feeling some discomfort in my groin area for 6 to 8 weeks. I knew that kind of thing could mean testicular cancer, so it really worried me.

“I used 111 online to help decide what I should do. All I had to do was answer a couple of questions, and it told me that it was most likely nothing to worry about, but that I should make an appointment with a GP to check. The GP confirmed there wasn’t a problem, and it was a weight off my mind.

“111 online was quick, efficient and easy to use. It was straightforward and, in a few minutes, it told me exactly what to do – and I got the answer that I needed. I would recommend 111 online to anyone else who has a medical need. I’ve already recommended it to a few friends and even my partner.”

The national campaign, which is part of the health service’s wider ‘Help Us Help You’ campaign, encourages the public to use – the service will ask people to enter their postcode, age, sex, and main symptom – and from there, they will be asked a series of questions about their health concern.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “NHS 111 online is a vital service that can offer patients the right advice as quickly and conveniently as possible – helping reduce pressure on our busy A&E departments.

“The coming weeks and months will be challenging, so it is essential people know the services available to them, to help access the treatment they need.

“With the uncertainty of more strikes looming I want to reassure the public we are doing all we can to minimise disruption and remind them to still call 999 in an emergency.”

Through people can:

  • find out how to get the right healthcare in their area, including whether they need to see a GP or seek urgent care
  • get advice on self-care
  • get a call back from a nurse, doctor or other trained health professional if they need it.

People should call 111 to speak to someone if they need to:

  • discuss complex medical problems
  • get medical advice for a child under five.