PLANS that will eventually see the full integration of the 999 and 111 services in the West Midlands (except Staffordshire) have taken an important step forward with the 111 service transferring to West Midlands Ambulance Service.
The change is the first step of a process that ambulance chiefs say will lead to significant improvements for patient care through fully integrating NHS urgent and emergency care services.
The new service will see fewer patients being sent by ambulances and lead to a reduction in the number of patients asked to attend A&E.
Instead, the new model aims to 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, advanced nurse practitioners, community mental health teams, pharmacists, dental nurses, paramedics and midwives.
More calls will also be diverted to GPs (in and out of hours), urgent treatment centres and rapid response services operated in the community.
Rachael Ellis, Chief Officer for Integrated Urgent & Emergency Care, Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG, said: “In 2016 the West Midlands launched England’s first Integrated Urgent Care Service which saw NHS 111 and urgent care providers working as one team.
“The launch of our new service is another national first as we move to fully integrate 111 and Out of Hours Services with the 999 service run by West Midlands Ambulance Service.
“Once in place, it won’t matter whether patients dial 111 for urgent care or 999 for emergency care, our patients will all receive the same quality of care with their calls answered quickly and they will have access to the right clinicians for their need.”
WMAS chief executive, Anthony Marsh, said: “During the winter period we will start to make the changes necessary to take the service to the next level.
“We have already taken on over 200 additional staff to that we can maintain the current service at the highest possible level.
“In the spring we will begin the work to properly integrate the two services.”
UNISON union Regional Organiser, Chanel Camilleri-Willis, said: “We are delighted that the 111 service has returned to the NHS family. This is excellent news for both staff and patients.”