NHS 111 Thames Valley: Nearly half of callers over Christmas and New Year gave up without getting help

Two out of five calls from ‘distressed and unwell’ callers over the festive period were abandoned without them ever getting medical advice
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NHS 111 has been in significant demand this winter, resulting in thousands of calls being abandoned over Christmas and New Year.

An amazing 21,482 NHS 111 calls in the Thames Valley region were abandoned each day over the Christmas and New Year period – 43.3% of calls - leaving an average of 1,534 “distressed and unwell” callers a day without medical advice, new health figures show.

As the NHS continues to battle under one of its toughest winters yet, health experts warned that lives were being put at risk as services struggle to keep up with demand. Ambulance crews in various parts of the country are striking today (Wednesday, January 11) after the government could not agree on a pay deal.

Two out of five NHS 111 calls over the festive period were abandoned in the Thames Valley regionTwo out of five NHS 111 calls over the festive period were abandoned in the Thames Valley region
Two out of five NHS 111 calls over the festive period were abandoned in the Thames Valley region

The proportion of NHS 111 calls being abandoned by callers before a call handler has answered them has worsened in comparison to the same period last year.

In the two weeks to January 1, 390,000 calls across the country were abandoned, representing more than a third (33.4%) of all calls, according to data published by NHS England. During the same period last year 21.1% of calls were abandoned, representing 245,000 calls.

Last week NHS 111 answered the second highest number of calls ever in a week – 410,618, up from 365,258 last week and 382,021 last year. NHS England said it was levels of demand not seen since the start of the Covid pandemic.

This winter has seen significant demand on the health service with flu and Covid cases surging and hospitals reaching potentially dangerous occupancy. Health chiefs recently warned that this year’s flu season could be more severe than in the years before the pandemic and urged people to stay at home and wear masks if unwell.

Deputy director of research at the Nuffield Trust, Sarah Scobie, said: “It’s not surprising that more NHS 111 calls are being abandoned as demand has risen to very high levels this winter, but behind these figures are distressed and unwell people struggling to get the medical help they need.

"Delays in these services could put patient safety at risk and may also put primary care and other urgent care services under more pressure as people seek care elsewhere when they don’t get a timely response.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “The NHS is under significant pressure this winter, following the pandemic and a surge in Covid and flu cases - over 5,000 hospital beds a day are being taken up by flu patients, compared to fewer than 50 this time last year.

“Now more than ever it is vital that all those who are eligible come forward for their flu and Covid jabs to reduce pressure on the NHS and help ensure emergency services can be there for those who need them.

“Alongside record funding, including up to £14.1 billion for health and social care over the next two years, we are urgently implementing measures to improve flow through hospitals, creating the equivalent of 7,000 new beds and investing £500 million to speed up hospital discharge, freeing up beds and helping get ambulances swiftly back out on the road.”

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