A new system is being introduced for people in Cornwall who need urgent – but not emergency – NHS care.
People will be urged to contact NHS 111 by phone or online at any time of day or night, to find out where they should go and when.
If needed, experienced clinicians will make a referral directly to the emergency department (ED) or to another treatment unit.
People turning up at ED without a referral from NHS 111 may be directed elsewhere or have to wait until referred patients have been seen, unless they need immediate treatment.
This is a new way of accessing urgent care in Cornwall, to make sure everyone stays as safe as possible during the covid pandemic.
It is being introduced as tourism businesses reopen, heralding the arrival of large numbers of visitors.
The new system will help the NHS manage the flow of patients when capacity in waiting rooms is much smaller than before, to maintain distancing and reduce the risk of infection. The waiting room at ED in Truro, for example, has capacity for only seven people with two-metre distancing, compared to 40 before the pandemic.
Contacting 111 first means everyone will get the right treatment, more quickly - and probably closer to home as well.
It also means that visitors to Cornwall don’t need to look up details of NHS services if they need urgent treatment. The 111 advisers will do all that – and book them in where possible.
Arrangements have not changed for people with serious or life-threatening illnesses or injuries. Please continue to dial 999, as before.
The Cornwall scheme is one of several being introduced around the country in response to the pandemic and the ongoing need to protect people from infection. Other parts of the NHS are likely to follow suit over coming weeks and months.
Dr Iain Chorlton, NHS Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group Governing Body chairman, said: “This is all about keeping people safe in a covid world, when we need to maintain distance and can’t have lots of people just turning up at A&E in an uncontrolled way. Cornwall is one of the first parts of the country to try out the system, given that we’re expecting a lot of visitors over coming days as the tourism industry reopens.”
Mark Woolcock, chief operating officer with Kernow Health CIC, which runs the NHS 111 service for the county, said: “We’ve got an experienced team of highly-qualified clinicians here in Truro who’ll be available night and day to make sure people get the right treatment when they contact us via NHS 111.
“That might mean you’re sent on to ED, but the great majority won’t need that and are likely to be pointed to one of our other units, where they’ll be seen quicker - and probably closer to home as well.”
Dr Toby Slade, emergency medicine consultant at Royal Cornwall Hospitals in Truro, said: “Nobody’s going to be locked out of ED at Truro, but those turning up without referral from NHS 111 may be asked to go elsewhere for treatment.
“And those who’ve come via NHS 111 will always have priority for treatment unless there’s a clear medical need.
“We can’t take chances by having too many people in ED at one time, so our advice is: Just contact NHS 111 by phone or online to find out where you should go and when. They know exactly what’s best for your condition and where to go for the right treatment.”