- New features which will benefit patients include increased clinical support for the NHS 111 service so patients will only be triaged once
- Faster access to telephone consultations with a GP or nurse
- Booked appointments for patients referred to a treatment centre
- Increased capacity for home visits
From 1 October 2016, the NHS 111 phone service and the out-of-hours (OOH) GP service will join together to become an integrated urgent care service, providing a more streamlined service to give patients quicker access to medical help and advice.
There’ll be shorter waiting times for patients with the introduction of appointments at NHS out-of-hours treatment centres for the first time ever, and more home visits for patients who are unable to travel to see a GP at weekends and overnight.
The provider of the service, Devon Doctors, has an excellent reputation for delivering high quality, safe services and has delivered urgent out-of-hours medical care across the county for more than 20 years.
Patients can call NHS 111 at any time for urgent medical advice, and in the evenings, weekends and overnight, phoning NHS 111 is still the route to advice and GP access. The service assesses the best course of action for the patient, with the options ranging from a phone consultation with a doctor or nurse, a face to face consultation with a GP, a home visit or a trip to A&E.
To provide the out-of-hours service, GPs base themselves around the county in various centres for appointments or home visits out-of-hours and that will continue although under the new model some of these locations will change.
Currently anyone referred to an out-of-hours appointment has to go and wait for the doctor on duty to see them in between telephone consultations and making home visits. Patients have never been able to just turn up at a treatment centre – it has always been specifically for patients sent there after speaking to the NHS 111 team.
From October 1, NHS 111 will have more clinical support to ensure that patients won’t need to be re-triaged by the out-of-hours service, leaving the doctor free for more face to face consultations, at treatment centres or on home visits.
As part of planning the new service following NHS England guidance, Devon Doctors and the CCG looked at the number of treatment centres and how much they are used. It showed us that Devon currently has a higher number of treatment centres when compared to other CCGs, but the usage rates are low.
At the moment in Exmouth there is a GP on duty in a vehicle from 6pm to 11pm on weekdays and from 8am until 11pm on Saturday and Sunday. There is also a GP based at the treatment centre from 8am until 6pm at weekends.
On average, fewer than two patients use the Exmouth treatment centre per weeknight evening, with 14 patients a day using it at weekends. This is one of the lowest rates of usage in the county and because of that it was decided that Exmouth would be one of the locations which will cease to be an out-of-hours treatment centre from October.
The service for Tavistock is also changing, as on average less than one patient uses the treatment centre per weekday evening, and around seven patients a day at weekends.
In Bideford, just over one person uses the treatment centre per weekday evening, and fewer than 12 per day at the weekend. And at Dawlish, the weekend-only treatment centre will cease to function. On average, about six people use this each day at the weekend.
There will still be the same clinical support available to patients affected in all these areas, but the doctors will be more mobile to meet demand.
People who are able to travel to a treatment centre will be offered a booked appointment at their nearest location. The service is designed to make sure that, as far as possible, no one is more than 30 minutes away from a treatment centre.