FEWER patients will be sent ambulances or need to attend A&E under changes to emergency call handling say ambulance and healthcare chiefs.
Previously 999 and 111 operators across the West Midlands were based in different centres but now the 111 healthcare advice service has been taken over by West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) and will be based along with the 999 call centre in Dudley.
The move has been made in a bid to see fewer patients being sent ambulances and reduce the number of patients asked to attend A&E.
Ambulance service bosses say the new model – which has seen 200 extra staff employed – will mean more patients are provided with care over the phone by GPs, nurses, mental health teams, pharmacists, dental nurses, paramedics and midwives.
More calls will also be diverted to GP surgeries, urgent treatment centres and services in the community.
WMAS chief executive Anthony Marsh said: “We have an outstanding track record in running complex clinical call handling operations. This expertise will allow us to bring real improvements to the 111 service for both patients and our staff.”
And integrated emergency and urgent care director Jeremy Brown said the service will improve for patients while boosting opportunities for staff.
He said: “Our main focus is to make accessing NHS services easier for patients. We recognise sometimes patients have been unsure which service to ring. Once we integrate the services it won’t matter, we will be able to deal with your concern or query whichever number you call.
“The change will also make it easier for our ambulance crews to find alternatives to taking a patient to Accident and Emergency as they will have the full range of services available to them.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for those working in both 999 and 111 with the chance to expand their knowledge and embrace the change which will open up new opportunities to enhance their careers. I am certain this will bring stability to the workforce and help us to develop and enhance the service.”