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New triple-digit non-emergency health number trialled

18 December 2009

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People seeking non-emergency medical care may soon have a new three-digit telephone number they can dial to get help.

The Department of Health (DoH) is trialling a “111” number in three areas. The introduction of the nationwide scheme has been a matter of consultation for communications regulator Ofcom.

The recommendation that the new number should be explored was part of a review of the NHS by Lord Darzi. It is not yet known how much it will cost to use the service.

Health Minister Mike O’Brien said: “Patients have told us that they need clear, easy advice on how to find healthcare when they don’t need to go to A&E and we have asked Ofcom to consult on making a new national 111 number available for them.

“The NHS already provides a range of urgent care services. The memorable 111 number will support these services and provide more choice for patients to find the care they need. This will be particularly useful outside of GP surgery hours and for people who are away from home.”

The 111 number would not initially replace existing local telephone services or NHS Direct but it might do in the long term if the scheme was a success.

The number to dial in an emergency would remain 999.

Copyright © Press Association 2009