The Sunday Telegraph

Patients sent to A&E by NHS 111 ‘do not need emergency aid’

- By Lizzie Roberts

NHS 111 is piling pressure on ambulances because medically untrained call handlers and “risk-averse” algorithms are sending paramedics to patients with minor ailments.

Patients struggling to get through to GPs are instead ringing 111, which uses a series of questions to identify what is wrong and where to direct the patient.

Emergency doctors have warned callouts for ambulances are up “20 to 30 per cent”, when the NHS is trying to clear the backlog caused by Covid.

Adrian Boyle, of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “NHS 111 is more likely to send people to either the emergency department, or the GP, or call for an ambulance, where they don’t have a condition, where it’s just some call handler following an algorithm.

“Those algorithms are too risk averse. They are less likely to tell people to selfcare, and are more likely for them to go and seek clinical help.

“You get people being sent to areas of healthcare where they don’t necessaril­y need to go.

“We’ve always been aware that NHS 111, because of the nature of the algorithms and lack of clinical involvemen­t, sends too many people to emergency department­s… it feels particular­ly bad at the moment.”

The NHS said: “Callers to NHS 111 are only referred to hospital when urgent care is needed, and the majority attending A&E have not contacted NHS 111 beforehand. The NHS has increased the number of doctors and nurses working in NHS 111 to ensure that the public get the right care.”

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