Send your news, photos and videos by texting bucksfreepress to 80360 or email
111 phone service the key to beating winter nightmares at Bucks hospitals
THE 111 non-emergency phone service will be the key to avoiding the winter nightmares experienced by many patients in Bucks' hospitals last year, according to one of the top medical figures in the county.
An unfinished refurbishment at Stoke Mandeville in the wake of the closure of Wycombe's Emergency Care Unit, bad weather and the Norovirus outbreak were all blamed for the problems that beset Bucks' health services last year.
The norovirus, also known as the ‘winter vomiting bug’, is commonplace during winter, with symptoms including diarrhoea and vomiting. Last winter Stoke asked restricted visiting times at certain periods to curb its spread and witing times - that have since improved - exceeded the four hour A&E target.
Dr Annet Gamell, Chief Clinical Officer at Chiltern CCG, said the key to preventing the spread and stopping A&E departments becoming overloaded is to make sure people don’t go to hospital unless they truly need to – and use the 111 service as their first port of call.
She said: "The real communication message, and what we’re trying to promote in the winter campaign, is to make the right call. ‘Talk before you walk’ – so phone 111."
She added people still needed to use their common sense when deciding which service to call, but by dialling 111 first, people are less likely to be unnecessarily admitted to A&E : "If somebody’s clearly had a stroke, or chest pain that might be a heart attack then you dial 999.
"If you’re not sure but you know it’s not an emergency then you dial 111, and 111 will advise where to go and what to do."
She said Stoke's revamped infrastructure was fully in place now, which should mean the flow of patients is better managed. But the best courses of action are precautionary ones, to avoid hospital admissions in the first place.
Dr Gamell said: "The real message we are saying for this winter is around prevention – so, for all those that should be having flu jabs - the over 65s and all those with health conditions where it is recommended - have flu jabs and talk to the pharmacist about first aid medicine that might be useful to have in the cupboard. Those on repeat medication should get it well in advance.
"Use 111 if you’re not sure. Keep warm and safe in the winter and look out for your neighbours to keep warm and safe as well. "
Although the 111 service has had problems nationally, with NHS Direct which initally provided the service seeking to withdraw from the contract, Dr Gamell said the non-emergency line has been working well in Bucks. South Central Ambulance Service is set to take over the service over the coming months, but the transfer will be gradual, and should take into account the greater demands on the service likely to come over the winter, she added.
Comments are closed on this article.