New number for non-emergency medical help

A NEW telephone number is being launched for locals who need urgent but not emergency medical help.

South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Trust (SECAMB) will run the new 111 freephone number which has been set up in a bid to ease the demand on the traditional 999 line.

The number will be manned by trained operators who, in theory, will be able to talk to the caller and make an informed decision about what steps to take next.

That could still involve sending an ambulance but may also mean putting them through to a nurse or booking an our-of-hours appointment with their GP.

It differs from the NHS Direct advice line in that the patient will not need to wait for a return call from an expert.

SECAMB’s chief executive Paul Sutton said, “It has always been our intention to be the single point of success for patients needing emergency or urgent care.

“We believe that an ambulance service in partnership with an out-of-hours provider provides a strong and safe platform to realise this ambition.”

The 111 line will be officially launched in April next year.