Visits to NHS 111 call centres

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Summary of report content

Healthwatch East Sussex undertook visits to two NHS 111 call centres to understand how they were responding to calls. On each visit 2-3 volunteers/staff members made observations and asked questions for an average duration of 3 hours. They had some lines of enquiry to ask the various staff members on duty on those days. During the visits, they spoke with NHS 111 staff members, observed waiting times for callers, witnessed and analysed the CAS process, and reflected on the overall running of each call centre.

Staff are working hard and have a real desire to help. They all receive training (which includes CPR training) when commencing their role. Despite receiving the full training, some newly hired staff did not seem to be fully confident in their role, especially when faced with a scenario which is not presented on the process/script they have to follow.

The script that call handlers follow when taking calls can be useful and is a triage method which supports a consistent approach. Whilst the script can work well, it lacks flexibility for specific situations.

There are bookable slots available for patients to see a GP or for A&E. The bookable slots are not always used for seeing a GP. Each practice will not necessarily have their patients calling 111 for a slot each day so not all the slots will be taken. A bookable slot for A&E may not mean the patient will be seen straight away.

The Clinical Assessment Service is a very advantageous system as it allows patients to speak with a healthcare professional such as a GP, nurse, paramedic etc. if needed. There are a variety of clinical staff available at different times. They observed long lists of patients waiting to be called back by the clinicians.

There is a 24/7 service available at NHS 111 and it generally appears to be quieter during surgery hours (9am-5pm). Outside of surgery hours (from 6:30pm) and especially at weekends and on bank holidays there could be up to 200 calls waiting. - Monday mornings also appear to be a peak time for the NHS 111 service.

People seem to misinterpret what the NHS 111 service offers help with. Some people call for reassurance.  Receptionists often refer patients to 111 to get a GP appointment and 999 calls are being made to 111.

The report includes 4 recommendations about staff training, bookable slots, more staff and public education.  The report includes a response from the provider.

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General details

Report title 
Visits to NHS 111 call centres
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch East Sussex
Date of publication 
Thursday, 4 August, 2022
Date evidence capture began 
Sunday, 1 May, 2022
Date evidence capture finished 
Tuesday, 31 May, 2022
Key themes 
Booking appointments
Communication between staff and patients
Quality of care
Service delivery organisation and staffing
Staff levels
Staff training
Waiting time to be seen once arrived at appointment

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
Primary research method used 
If an Enter and View methodology was applied, was the visit announced or unannounced? 

Details of health and care services included in the report

Urgent and emergency care services 
NHS 111

Details of people who shared their views

Number of people who shared their views 
Not applicable
Does the information include public's views? 
Not applicable
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
Not applicable
Does the information include staff's views? 
Types of health and care professionals engaged 
Allied health care professionals
What was the main sentiment of the people who shared their views? 

Outcomes and impact

Were recommendations made by local Healthwatch in the report? 
Does the information contain a response from a provider? 
Yes action has been taken or promised
Is there evidence of impact in the report? 
Is there evidence of impact external to the report? 
Not known
What type of impact was determined? 
Implied Impact

Network Impact
Relationships that exist locally, regionally, nationally have benefited from the work undertaken in the report
Implied Impact
Where it is implied that change may occur in the future as a result of Healthwatch work. This can be implied in a provider  response, press release or other source. Implied impact can become tangible impact once change has occurred.
Tangible Impact
There is evidence of change that can be directly attributed to Healthwatch work undertaken in the report.