Two thirds of locals find 111 health line doesn't meet needs
countys independent health and care champion Healthwatch Somerset
is calling for the areas NHS non-emergency phone line to provide
better communication with the public.
Long waiting times, repetitive assessment questions and robotic
phone operatives were just some of the issues raised by members
of the public when asked about Somersets 111 non-emergency
phone service in a recent survey, carried out by the countys
independent health and care champion Healthwatch Somerset.
Despite two thirds of respondents saying they felt the 111 service
did not meet their needs, 90 per cent said they felt they were treated
with compassion, dignity and respect and a high proportion rated
their experience as very good or good.
More than 650 people took part in the survey, which was carried
out to ensure the public voice is used to help shape a new Integrated
Urgent Care Service, being introduced by Somerset Clinical Commissioning
Group in February 2019.
and volunteers from Healthwatch Somerset visited events and community
venues over the summer to capture peoples views on the 111
service. Some people said they liked the 111 service, as it provided
reassurance and help in a time of need, commenting on how polite
the advisors were.
Whilst other people reported being frustrated about the assessment
questions, finding them irrelevant, lengthy and repetitive.
Taylor, Healthwatch Somerset Manager, said: "There appears
to be a lack of understanding about the relevance and importance
of the assessment questions. We would recommend better communication
with the public about the service and how it works."
"People also talked to us about waiting long periods of time
for a call back from a medical professional. Many told us about
not knowing when they would receive a call back. Some suggested
that they could have been kept updated via a text message, email
or an online app system. Where people were left too long, they often
called 999 or went to A&E. Again, we would suggest better communication
with people who are left waiting for a call back."
Emily continued: "People often referred to the 111 phone operatives
as robotic because they were following a script. Whilst people are
happy that the service exists, there was a keenness that advisors
be more willing to enter into a conversation about the issues and
to be more flexible around the script. Additional staff training
was mentioned on numerous occasions."
Following analysis of the survey results, Healthwatch Somerset recommends:
communication with the public about the service and how it works,
as well as keeping in touch with those who are left waiting for
a call back.
staff training for operators so they can enter into a conversation
with the caller and be more flexible around the script.
further data on high user groups and communicating with them on
alternative options. (Around 85 people were regular users of the
service calling between 10 and 60 times in the last three years.)
a different phone number for health care professionals, particularly
care home staff, so they can get access to other services without
being taken through all the questions.
Somerset Manager Emily Taylor added: "We know that it is important
that people know what has happened as a result of them sharing their
experiences with us. We are already working with commissioners to
respond to the issues raised in this report. We will be sharing
this report with key partners and will be presenting our findings
at the Somerset Health and Wellbeing Board and NHS Local Quality
report can be viewed via healthwatchsomerset.co.uk
and will be sent to Healthwatch England, and a follow up meeting
will be arranged with NHS Somerset CCG ahead of the launch of the
Integrated Urgent Care service in February 2019.
for Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group said: "Somerset CCG
welcomes the publication of the Healthwatch Somersets NHS
111 public experience report. We will be incorporating its insights
and recommendations into local urgent care planning and the countys
forthcoming health and care strategy."
of the issues raised, like the length of time it might take some
patients to receive a call back after initially calling NHS 111,
we expect to be addressed by the new Integrated Urgent Care Service
for Somerset. This will be up and running from February 2019 and
will be provided by Devon Doctors Ltd."
111 remains the essential number to call if you become ill after
your GP surgery has closed or when you need medical advice fast,
but it is not a 999 emergency. The number is free to call, available
day or night and is still the quickest way to get timely access
to health advice you or your family may need."