Is NHS 111 worth saving?

Published: 21 Mar 2016

I have a guilty secret. I actually think NHS 111 is a really excellent idea, and we need to work hard at saving it.

I know, plenty of you lovely Pulse readers will think I’m crazy but I find myself strangely passionate about this issue. I realise Dr Mark Spencer has already given his ideas, but I think we need to broaden the discussion. Too much of the debate about NHS 111 has been regarding urgent and emergency care. We need to take a step back and think about what NHS 111’s fundamental purpose is, and I think limiting its purpose to triage is a missed opportunity.

Let’s think about its number one strength: it’s an easily remembered phone number, which most people now know can get them help with their health. The NHS is a sprawling behemoth of an organisation. I can hardly navigate it, and I’ve been studying in it or working in it for 15 years. How is your average patient meant to navigate it?

Now, let’s think about the number one difficulty facing general practice: if a patient rings up, our organisations are set up to deal with it, whatever it is. I’ve already written about why I think we need to give up the gatekeeping role of general practice and I see NHS 111 as the ideal tonic to save general practice.

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