A NEW number for non-emergency health calls has started operation in the borough.
‘NHS 111’ is available for people who need medical help quickly but whose case is not a 999 emergency.
The pilot service was meant to be launched at the end of last year but was postponed after concerns were raised about how the procurement process, where outside companies bid to run of the service, was being conducted.
NHS 111 will be run by Harmoni, the existing GP out-of-hours provider for the borough, which won the contract first time around.
Hillingdon is one of only nine areas in England to offer it. The line is staffed by a team of trained advisers supported by experienced nurses, who will ask questions to assess callers’ symptoms, give healthcare advice and direct people to the right service as quickly as possible.
This could include a doctor, urgent care centre, community nurses, emergency dentist or late-opening chemist.
For less urgent health needs, people should still contact their GP or pharmacist in the normal way.
The service will eventually cover the whole of London in 2013. In time it will replace the NHS Direct telephone advice service.
Nick Relph, chief executive of NHS Hillingdon, said: “It is essential that we improve access to, and understanding about, urgent care services, which includes out-of-hours care.
“At present, too many people are confused about who to contact and how to do so.
“111 will be free to call and available 24/7, putting patients in touch with the right NHS service, first time.