By Tristan Harris 21/08 Updated: 23/08 22:32
A NEW health advice telephone service will replace NHS Direct when it goes live on April 1 next year.
The introduction of NHS111, which will see residents call 111 for non-life threatening issues, comes after a number of pilot schemes were run across the UK.
Callers will be routed through to the new service from mid-February 2013, and encouraged to call the new number from the end of March, when the current NHS Direct number - 0845 46 47 - will be switched off.
The 111 number, which will be available 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week, will direct callers to the most appropriate service to meet their needs and will take into account their location, time of day and local NHS capacity.
It will be for those occasions when residents need medical help fast, but it is not a 999 emergency, when they do not know who to call for help or do not have a GP and for those who need health information or reassurance about what to do.
The calls will be managed in the same way they are when people dial 999, so if the handlers feel the call merits an ambulance, one will be sent out.
Residents are urged to only call 999 in a life-threatening emergency - chest pain, choking, blacking out, blood loss or serious injury. For everything else, 111 should be used.
NHS Direct has been chosen as the preferred provider of the service - a move which has been welcomed by Stephen Jones, the senior responsible officer for NHS111 in the West Midlands.
He said: "We undertook a thorough and rigorous procurement process over the past few months which involved clinicians and members of the public from across the West Midlands in the decision making process.
“We believe NHS Direct is the right choice for the West Midlands."
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