A trial of a new non-emergency phone number for those needing medical advice has been launched in the North East.
People in the NHS County Durham and Darlington areas will be able to access health advice and information on services such as out-of-hours doctors and walk-in centres, by calling 111.
The trial will be also be rolled out in Nottingham, Lincolnshire and Luton later this year.
It is hoped the 24-hour service will ease pressure on the 999 service.
Manned by a team of trained advisers, the service is to be used “if you need help quickly and can’t wait for an appointment with your GP or don’t know who to call”.
The advice adds: “If we think you need an ambulance, we will send one immediately – just as if you had originally dialled 999.”
Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, said earlier this summer the 111 number was part of a drive to improve patients’ access to urgent care services and to “end the confusion over what services are available when”.
Professor Stephen Singleton, Medical Director of NHS North East, said: “By better understanding what people really need from different local services, 111 will enable the commissioning of more effective and productive healthcare.
“Most importantly it will help improve efficiency across the whole health care system by reducing unnecessary waste and making sure people get access to the right service, first time.”
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