NHS 111 service transfers over to West Midlands Ambulance Service
Plans to merge the 999 and 111 call services in the West Midlands have taken a major step forward this week.
The 111 service was officially transferred over from clinical commissioning groups to West Midlands Ambulance Service on Tuesday.
The change is the first step of a process that health bosses hope will improve patient care by integrating urgent and emergency care services.
They say the new service will see more patients being cared for in the most appropriate place for their needs and fewer being sent ambulances or told to go to A&E.
It will include more patients being provided with care over the phone by a team including GPs, advanced nurse practitioners, pharmacists and midwives.
Rachael Ellis, chief officer for integrated urgent and emergency care at Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group, said: "In 2016 the West Midlands launched England’s first integrated urgent care service which saw NHS 111 and urgent care providers working as one team.
“The launch of our new service is another national first as we move to fully integrate 111 and out of hours services with the 999 service run by West Midlands Ambulance Service.
“Once in place, it won’t matter whether patients dial 111 for urgent care or 999 for emergency care, our patients will all receive the same quality of care with their calls answered quickly and they will have access to the right clinicians for their need.
“This integration represents a real opportunity to work as one system to care for our patients.”
Anthony Marsh, West Midlands Ambulance Service's chief executive, said: "We have an outstanding track record in running complex clinical call handling operations. This expertise will allow us to bring real improvements to the 111 service for both patients and our staff.
“We will build on the good work that Care UK, the previous provider, had initiated.
“During the winter period we start to make the changes necessary to take the service to the next level. We have already taken on over 200 additional staff to that we can maintain the current service at the highest possible level. In the spring we will begin the work to properly integrate the two services.”
Jeremy Brown, West Midlands Ambulance Service's integrated emergency and urgent care director, added: "I want to pay tribute to the staff that have joined us from the existing 111 service.
"They have absolutely embraced our vision of making the service as easy as possible for patients and together with our existing staff are committed to taking the 111 service to the next level.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for those working in both 999 and 111 with the chance to expand their knowledge and embrace the change which will open up new opportunities to enhance their careers.
"I am certain that this will bring stability to the workforce and help us to develop and enhance the service for patients.
"Our main focus is to make accessing NHS services easier for patients. We recognise that sometimes patients have been unsure which service to ring – 111 or 999. Once we integrate the services it won’t matter – we will be able to deal with your concern or query whichever number you call.
“The change will also make it easier for our ambulance crews to find alternatives to taking a patient to A&E as they will have the full range of services available to them.”