People in Reading and the rest of the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, are being offered a revamped NHS 111 helpline service from 5 September 2017.
Around 30 per cent of people who call the helpline will now be put through to a health professional for expert advice on symptoms, or information about when and how to get further help if needed. This means the public could get to speak to out-of-hours GPs, or clinicians with expertise on dental, mental health or medication issues.
Previously the local NHS 111 helpline had been mostly staffed by call-handlers and the public had suggested improvements to the service. The NHS also hopes the new service will help people avoid visiting A&E when they don’t need to.
‘By calling 111, patients will have access to assessment from a range of trained call handlers and clinicians, all day, every day. They can ensure patients get the right care, first time,’ the launch statement says.
Clinicians working for the service will be based at the Bicester headquarters of South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) and the Berkshire Healthcare Hub in Wokingham.
SCAS won the contract to deliver the new service – known fully as Thames Valley Urgent Integrated Care – in partnership with Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust.
The Thames Valley is a pioneer of this new kind of 111 service, which is expected to be expanded across the rest of England by 2020.