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.