PLANS that would see the integration of the 999 and 111 services in the West Midlands will lead to significant improvements for patient care, say ambulance chiefs.
However they acknowledge it will lead to more patients being provided with care ‘over the phone’.
An agreement has been reached that will see West Midlands Ambulance Service take over the running of NHS 111 service in the majority of the region in November.
The plan will see the 111 and 999 services integrated into a single service and will lead to further integration with local services.
The first step of this change will be to transfer the service, except Staffordshire, from Care UK to WMAS in early November 2019.
Rachael Ellis, chief officer for Integrated Urgent and Emergency Care, Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “This will lead to real benefits for patients and staff.
“The new service will see fewer patients being sent ambulances and a reduction in the number of patients asked to attend A&E.
“The new model will support more patients being cared for in the most appropriate place for their needs.
“This will also include more patients being provided with care over the phone by a team including GPs, other healthcare staff including advanced nurse practitioners, community mental health teams, pharmacists, dental nurses, paramedics and midwives.
“We would also expect to see more calls diverted to GPs (in and out of hours), urgent treatment centres and rapid response services operated in the community.”
WMAS chief executive, Anthony Marsh, said: “We will initially deliver the current service over the winter period but will then look to properly integrate the two in 2020. Staff currently employed by Care UK will TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment) to WMAS.
“I firmly believe that this will be positive for both sets of staff for example, providing new opportunities to develop and progress their careers.
“By integrating 111 and 999, patients can be better directed to the most appropriate care for their needs.
“Call 999 only for life threatening conditions. Call 111 if it isn’t an immediate emergency or a life-threatening condition; whatever number you ring the ambulance service will manage your call.”