Plans aim to take 111 service to the next level.
Plans that would see the integration of the 999 and 111 services in the West Midlands will lead to significant improvements for patient care.
An agreement has been reached that will see West Midlands Ambulance Service take over the running of NHS 111 service in the majority of the West Midlands in November.
The plan will see the 111 and 999 services integrated into a single service and will lead to further developments in integration with local services for the benefit of patients.
The first step of this change will be for the service, across the West Midlands (except Staffordshire), to be transferred from Care UK to WMAS in early November 2019.
Rachael Ellis, Chief Officer for Integrated Urgent & Emergency Care, Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG, said: “This is truly a first for the country and will lead to real benefits for patients and staff.
“The new service in development will see fewer patients being sent ambulances and a reduction in the number of patients asked to attend A&E. The new model will support more patients being cared for in the most appropriate place for their needs.
“This will also include more patients being provided with care over the phone by a team including GPs; other healthcare staff including advanced nurse practitioners; community mental health teams; pharmacists, dental nurses, paramedics and midwives.
“We would also expect to see more calls diverted to GPs (in and out of hours), urgent treatment centres and rapid response services operated in the community.”
WMAS Chief Executive, Anthony Marsh, added: “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 initially deliver the current service over the winter period but will then look to properly integrate the two in 2020. Staff currently employed by Care UK will TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment) to WMAS.
“We will also be looking to significantly increase the number of staff so that there is more resilience over the winter period.
“I firmly believe that this will be positive for both sets of staff for example, providing new opportunities to develop and progress their careers.
“People who need help in an urgent or emergency situation are often anxious and may be unsure how to access NHS services. By integrating 111 and 999, patients can be better directed to the most appropriate care for their needs.
“It won’t matter which number you use, it will be handled by a call handler who will be able to deal with either type. Call 999 only for life threatening conditions. Call 111 if it isn’t an immediate emergency or a life-threatening condition; whatever number you ring the ambulance service will manage your call.”