Figures released by NHS England show that 20,000 people every day are now getting urgent health advice from a doctor, nurse, paramedic or other clinical professional over the phone.
Over half of all the 38,000 daily calls to the NHS 111 phone service received expert assessment from a clinical professional in July this year – the highest proportion since the service was introduced.
While all calls answered by NHS 111 are handled by fully trained staff who can advise, signpost to local services or arrange appointments for further assessment, increasing numbers of callers now also receive clinical advice directly from a medical professional.
The proportion of telephone calls receiving direct input from doctors, nurses and other clinicians has been steadily increasing every month since it was first collected in November in 2016, when one in four people spoke to a trained medical professional via 111.
Offering expert clinical advice to people seeking help over the phone is a core part of improving access to urgent NHS help, and reducing pressure on A&E services, as the NHS continues to develop a long-term plan for care.
Last month only one in ten callers to 111 was advised to visit their Emergency Department.
Over the same period, during the heatwave, emergency departments recorded the highest ever number of visits to A&E, with more than two million people seeking help in just one month, a 5% increase on the same time last year.
Dr David Chilvers, the clinical lead for NHS Fareham and Gosport Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We know that the NHS 111 service is working very effectively in our area, considerably relieving pressures on other areas of the NHS.
“There are safe alternatives to the Emergency Department for less severe issues, and I think the increased use of 111 is a sign of ever-increasing public confidence in the service.”
Dr Barbara Rushton, the clinical lead for NHS South Eastern Hampshire CCG, which covers the area around the A3 corridor from Hayling Island to Bordon, said: “The NHS is investing strongly in improvements and advances in technology to help patients get the right care, from the right person at the right time whilst reducing pressures on the emergency services.
“GP practices are also very keen to make more of their patients aware of their online services, such as the eConsult scheme, which is widely available across both our CCG areas, with patients receiving online consultations from their GP practice from the comfort of their homes. The details are available on practice websites.”
Members of the public called the NHS 111 service 1.4 million times last month - an 8% increase over last year. The service has received 16 million calls in the last year.
A recent survey also showed that, if NHS 111 wasn’t available, more than one in four people said they would have gone to A&E instead and 16% would have called an ambulance.
People should continue to dial 999 in a medical emergency when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk.