Date set for new NHS 111 first policy launch in Shropshire
A new policy urging patients to call NHS 111 first rather than walk in to Shropshire’s A&E departments is due to launch on September 28, health chiefs have confirmed.
Patients with more serious issues will be given a dedicated time slot to visit the emergency departments, while those with less serious issues will be advised to see a GP or pharmacist.
It aims to help manage visitor numbers, but people will still be able to visit A&E without going through the scheme.
David Evans, joint accountable officer for Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Groups, told a meeting of the groups' governing bodies that work is taking place to update the county's directory of health services to ensure the system works to the best extent.
He said: "We are the second area in the Midlands to go live with NHS 111 first and the launch of that is on September 28, although it will be a staggered launch in terms of how it's implemented.
"It will be fully implemented by December.
"It is clear that to enable that to work effectively the system as a whole has to make sure that the directory of services is accurate to enable the call handlers in 111 to be able to send patients to the appropriate service.
"There is significant work at the moment going on on updating the directory of services to make sure that's the case and make sure that the right alternatives are there, because if the alternatives aren't there then clearly patients will still either turn up at A&E or NHS 111 will have no option but to send them to A&E."
People will still be urged to call 999 in an emergency.
Dr Julie Davies, director of performance for the CCGs, said the four-hour A&E waiting time target had improved in recent months at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust – which runs Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Telford's Princess Royal Hospital – but that had slightly declined again.
She said: "The challenge was when Covid first hit the volume of activity did drop off.
"We had great concern that we didn't see the level of improvement in performance that we would have expected based on that reduction in demand.
"That was probably March through to May.
"We saw significant improvement during June and into July.
"As activity has come back on through August, and particularly the end of August to the beginning of September, we've seen that drop off again."
She said NHS 111 first was expected to help manage demand, while community services would also help.
Dr Davies added: "We do have to maintain the focus on the systems and processes.
"We still have some significant challenges around staffing so what we do tend to see is performance is much better during the day and it does drop off overnight because of some of those staffing challenges."
She said health bosses were working to 'consolidate performance' but workforce limitations also have an impact on A&E waiting time targets.
The operational standard is that at least 95 per cent of patients attending A&E should be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours.
Dr Davies said SaTH is currently achieving about 80-82 per cent.
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