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Urgent medical help available – NHS 111 & NHS Choices

What is NHS 111?

NHS 111 is the NHS non-emergency number. You can call 111 when you need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergency. 

NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Calls are free from landlines and mobile phones. 

In an emergency situtation please call the Emergency Services on 999.


When to use NHS 111

You should use the NHS 111 service if you urgently need medical help or advice but it’s not a life-threatening situation.

Call 111 if:

  • you need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergency
  • you think you need to go to A&E or need another NHS urgent care service
  • you don’t know who to call or you don’t have a GP to call
  • you need health information or reassurance about what to do next

For less urgent health needs, contact your GP or local pharmacist . If a health professional has given you a specific phone number to call when you are concerned about your condition, continue to use that number. 


How does NHS 111 work?

The NHS 111 service is staffed by a team of fully trained advisers, supported by experienced nurses and paramedics. They will ask you questions to assess your symptoms, then give you the healthcare advice you need or direct you straightaway to the local service that can help you best. That could be:

Where possible, the NHS 111 team will book you an appointment or transfer you directly to the people you need to speak to. If NHS 111 advisers think you need an ambulance, they will immediately arrange for one to be sent to you.

Calls to 111 are recorded, however the information is kept securely and will only be shared with others directly involved with your care.


What information will I need when I call NHS 111?

If you need advice about a health problem, you will be asked if you are calling for yourself, or on behalf of someone else, and will be asked to explain:

  • what the symptoms are, how they affect you (or the person you are calling about), and when they began;
  • what you (or the person you are calling about) have tried already;
  • any drugs you (or the person you are calling about) are already taking;
  • any existing medical conditions; and
  • anything else that you think is relevant.

If you are calling on behalf of someone else, that person needs to be in the same room as you so that the nurse can accurately assess their symptoms. An NHS 111 advisor will then advise you on the most appropriate course of action to take.


What if I don’t speak English or I’m hard of hearing?

If English is not your first language, you can use the NHS 111’s Interpreting and translation service. When you phone NHS 111 just say the language you would prefer to use. 

For deaf people, or for those who are hard of hearing, there is a textphone service available.


What is NHS Choices?

NHS Choices (previously NHS Direct) is a website that:-

  • provides information on health conditions and treatments,
  • has an online symptom checker
  • has a facility for searching for services near you,
  • has interactive tools, smartphone apps and podcasts to help you improve your health and lifestyle
  • connects to a range of online communities
  • brings the latest health news

The NHS Choices Health A-Z contains over 700 topics covering illnesses and conditions, tests, treatments and operations. 

The symptom checker will give you one of the following three courses of action:

  • Self-care – It is safe to manage this problem yourself at home.
  • Call NHS 111
  • Call 999 – Seek emergency help immediately, call 999 and ask for an ambulance.

If the guide suggests dealing with the problem yourself, it will give you advice on:

  • what to do;
  • what medicines, if any, you can buy from your pharmacist which could help; and
  • which other people or organisations can offer you more advice.

Last updated: December 19, 2016

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