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Number of calls to NHS 111 increase by third due to coronavirus fears

by Awil Mohamoud
9 March 2020

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The outbreak of coronavirus has led to a rise in calls to NHS 111 by one third compared to the same period last year, NHS England has said.

NHS 111 answered 390,000 calls in the first week of March – 120,000 more than the previous year.

In a bid to free up call handlers, NHS England has set up a dedicated online resource to advice on coronavirus.

One million people have already visited the new website, including over 210,000 in a single day.

The news comes as GP urgent care leads have warned that a quarter of patients are abandoning calls to NHS 111 due to long waits.

NHS England said it is investing £1.7m into NHS 111 to offer additional clinical phone services, with that figure ‘set to increase if demand continues to rise’.

It has so far trained roughly 500 more initial call responders, increasing capacity by 20%, or 20,000 more calls a day.

NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said: ‘NHS staff continue to work around the clock to ensure everyone gets the care, advice and support that they need to deal with coronavirus.

‘With more than one million people using the new online service, 111 online is helping people to get specific information and advice at the touch of a button, helping to give people quick advice, increase capacity in the NHS and free up clinicians’ time.’

As of this morning, 319 people have been confirmed as positive for Covid-19 in the UK. Three patients who tested positive have died.

The Government is preparing for a worst-case scenario where 80% of the population get the coronavirus and one-fifth of the workforce is off work at the peak of the outbreak.