NHS 111 aims to ensure patients with urgent medical needs access care in the right place at the right time, by providing health advice and directing patients to different NHS services over the phone. In summer 2020, pilots began of an ‘NHS 111 first’ model, where NHS 111 acts as the front door to urgent care, booking appointments for patients with the appropriate service. NHS England’s 2021/22 priorities and operational planning guidance sets an expectation that at least 70% of all patients referred to an emergency department by NHS 111 are given a booked time slot to attend.
The total number of calls made to NHS 111 has increased over time, from just over 1 million in April 2014 to almost 1.7 million in March 2021. The percentage of calls answered within 60 seconds has fallen over the same time period, from 93% to 78%.
At the start of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, people were encouraged to call NHS 111 with concerns about symptoms of Covid-19. The number of calls increased dramatically to just under 3 million in March 2020, however only 1.4 million calls were answered. 1.1 million calls were abandoned after waiting at least 30 seconds, and only 30% of calls were answered within 60 seconds. In response to the surge in calls, an NHS 111 online service was launched and funding was announced to increase the number of call responders.
In April 2021, the dataset changed and some definitions were revised, so data are not directly comparable with earlier months. Provisional data for May 2021 shows that 1.7 million calls were answered, with 65% answered within 60 seconds.
Calls to NHS 111 may be answered by a variety of professionals including clinicians (such as clinical advisors or nurses) or non-clinicians (people trained to triage calls and direct patients to the most appropriate service). A review of NHS urgent care access standards has recently been undertaken, and one of the proposed new standards is the percentage of contacts with NHS 111 that receive clinical input.
Between November 2016 and July 2018, the percentage of triaged calls which were assessed by any clinician increased from 27% to 53%, where it remained roughly constant until March 2021. In April 2021, the dataset changed so data are not directly comparable. Between April and May 2021, the percentage of calls with input from a clinician fell from 46% to 42% (note that data for May 2021 are provisional).
About this data
Integrated Urgent Care Aggregate Data Collection (IUC ADC)
The IUC ADC has been published since April 2021. The number of calls answered includes only calls answered by a professional, excluding recorded messages and use of an interactive voice response message resulting in a call back. The time before the call is answered is taken from the moment the call is placed in a queue, or after any interactive message designed to steer a call to the most appropriate respondent.
The percentage of calls with clinical input is the percentage of calls triaged in which the caller spoke to a clinician or clinical advisor. This includes calls passed to a clinician or clinical advisor for a call back.
For more information, see the IUC ADC Specification 2021-11.
NHS 111 Minimum Data Set
Prior to April 2021, data on NHS 111 was published in the NHS 111 Minimum Data Set. The number of calls answered in 60 seconds is measured as the number of calls answered within 60 seconds of being queued for an advisor. The percentage of calls with clinical input is the percentage of triaged calls which were answered by, or transferred to, a clinician or a clinical advisor using a Clinical Decision Support System. For more information, see the Weekly NHS 111 collection specification.