NHS 111 call handlers should get access to patient records, MPs told

·2 min read
NHS 111 call handlers - Nigel Howard
NHS 111 call handlers - Nigel Howard

NHS 111 call handlers should be given access to patient records and A&E waiting time data to signpost people to the right care, MPs have been told.

Matthew Taylor, the chief executive of NHS Confederation, which represents NHS leaders, told the Health and Social Care Select Committee the way patients were triaged in the NHS needed to be improved.

The committee heard from GPs and NHS leaders about the impact of the NHS backlog on general practice, while MPs shared experiences from their own constituents who have struggled to access their GP.

Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary and chairman of the committee, asked Mr Taylor what reforms could be made to general practice to ensure patients are seen by the right part of the health system in a timely fashion.

Triaging patients “at scale” must be improved, Mr Taylor said, for example through the NHS 111 service.

He said his “vision of the future” was to train people to work in NHS 111 centres in local regions to direct patients based on demand on local services.

“It would be trained people working in 111 centres within localities, who not only have the record of the patient who is ringing them up, and a good set of skills to understand what their needs might be,” he explained. “But also a dashboard that tells them how many people are waiting in A&E, how many people are waiting [elsewhere in the system], so they are able to direct that person to the service they need … that could make a big difference.”

Call handler would be able to give patients choice

Asked whether the NHS should make it clearer for patients where they should initially seek help for specific health issues, such as via the GP, NHS 111 or walk-in centres, he said: “I think so, I think the best service that we want is where you knew where you had to go, and the person who is responding to your challenge understood you, your needs, but also the capacity in the system.”

The call handler would be able to give a patient choice, he added: “They were able to say ‘you could go to A&E but you might be waiting several hours, or you could wait three days and see your GP, or you could tomorrow see a physiotherapist because you’re complaining about a musculoskeletal issue’.”

“If we could improve the signposting and even give patients a capacity for choice, which empowers people, that I think would be a big step forward,” he said.

NHS England was approached for comment.

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