New NHS 111 service to give Sussex patients ‘real confidence in the care they will receive’

An NHS 111 health advisor at South East Coast Ambulance Service
An NHS 111 health advisor at South East Coast Ambulance Service

A new five-year contract to provide Sussex’s NHS 111 non-emergency telephone service has been awarded to the region’s ambulance service.

South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SECAmb) will act as lead provider with Integrated Care 24 (IC24) working in partnership to deliver key elements of the new service.

The contract, worth £18.1million in 2020/21 and due to start in April, includes being able to issue prescriptions, while patients will also have access to a wider range of health care professionals such as GPs, paramedics, nurses and pharmacists, who will be able to directly book people into urgent care appointments if needed.

Health groups across Sussex, Kent and Medway have worked together to commission an integrated NHS 111 telephony and clinical assessment service (CAS) that meets patients’ health care needs on their first call, including a consultation with a doctor or nurse where it is needed.

Victoria Beattie, NHS 111 clinical lead for Sussex, said: “NHS 111 will be pivotal in ensuring patients get access to the right care, at the right time and place for their symptoms. The new clinical assessment service will mean patients can talk to a doctor or health care professional sooner, giving patients real confidence in the care they will receive.”

The contract award follows a six-month procurement process undertaken on behalf of the 15 Clinical Commissioning Groups across Sussex, Kent and Medway.

Both SECAmb and IC24 are working to deliver an enhanced NHS 111 and a CAS that is more integrated with 999 and existing out-of-hours care.

Working together, the organisations are developing a local CAS, which can support both emergency and urgent primary care.

A joint clinical and operations leadership team will collectively drive standards.

Meanwhile both organisations will be developing their workforces and offering roles which span across both emergency and urgent care services.

Fionna Moore, SECAmb’s acting chief executive, said: “The relationship between 999 and NHS 111 is crucial and the first point of contact for hundreds of thousands of patients across our region each year.

“I am delighted that SECAmb and IC24 have successfully bid to provide this enhanced service to people across the region. I would like to thank everyone involved in achieving this and look forward to seeing the expected benefits of this partnership realised.”

Yvonne Taylor, chief executive of IC24, added: “We are excited to be working in partnership with SECAmb to deliver integrated urgent care services across Kent, Medway and Sussex.

“We are both experienced providers of NHS111 services and we are looking forward to developing the service and our partnership over the coming months and years. Working together will bring additional capacity and resilience to the service as we have the capability to deliver it across multiple sites and ensure our patients have access to the best possible care when they need us.

“We already have experience of delivering a Clinical Assessment Service in other parts of the country and we will develop a joint clinical and operational leadership team to collectively drive standards and quality of urgent care.”

According to SECAmb’s website:

Calls to the NHS 111 service from landlines and mobile phones are free of charge and the service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to respond to people’s healthcare needs when:

• They need medical help fast, but it’s not a 999 emergency

• They don’t know who to call for medical help or don’t have a GP to call

• They think they need to go to A&E or another NHS urgent care service

• They require health information or reassurance about what to do next.

The public should continue to call 999 for life-threatening emergencies that require an immediate response. However if a call to NHS 111 is assessed as being a medical emergency, the service can dispatch an ambulance directly and provide first aid advice to the caller until ambulance clinicians arrive, without the need to transfer the call, or for the caller to repeat information.