Significant rise in NHS 111 calls in Thames Valley

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It is the busiest the line has been since the early days of the pandemic

Thames Valley saw significantly more NHS 111 calls in the week to December 11 than the previous seven days, new figures show.

Patients across England called the NHS 111 line more than ever before over the period, aside from two weeks in March 2020, when a surge of people sought help during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

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In response, NHS England and the Department for Health and Social Care have urged people to use online 111 services for non-emergencies to ensure they receive the care they need during the festive period.

NHS logo, photo from Yui Mok/ PA Wire/PA ImagesNHS logo, photo from Yui Mok/ PA Wire/PA Images
NHS logo, photo from Yui Mok/ PA Wire/PA Images

NHS England figures show patients called the Thames Valley 111 helpline 28,075 times in the week to December 11 – up by 39% on the 20,222 calls made the week before.

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Of these, 13,654 (49%) were answered, while 416 were answered within 60 seconds.

It meant just 3% of the answered calls were within in a minute – well below the NHS target of 95%.

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In England, a total of 706,129 calls were made last week, up 60% on the 440,047 made the previous week, and the highest on record aside from two weeks in March 2020.

Meanwhile, just 15% of answered calls were within 60 seconds.

Professor Sir Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said the huge increase is "understandable with concerns about winter viruses – including strep A – a top priority for the public".

Professor Powis added: "It is more important than ever that the public uses 111 online where possible to get important information about non-emergency health conditions and to be signposted to the best possible care."

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The NHS is dealing with industrial action as nurses went on strike.

Professor Powis said the health service was "encouraging people to continue to come forward for the care they need" ahead of strikes this week.

Across the country, 320,000 calls were abandoned by patients – 49% of calls.

For callers to the Thames Valley 111 helpline, the figure stood at 51%.

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Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: "With the uncertainty of more strikes looming, I want to reassure the public we are doing all we can to minimise disruption and remind them to still call 999 in an emergency."