PEOPLE in Gwent who need help, advice and urgent care from the area's GP out-of-hours service or from NHS Direct, will be able to use the single contact number '111' service from the middle of next month.

The service aims to provide 24/7 improved access and signposting to services, clinical advice and treatment, ensuring patients get to the right service quickly and straightforwardly.

It has already been introduced in three health board areas in Wales, and was scheduled for start in Gwent in April.

That plan was scuppered when concerns over staffing levels in the 111 call centre were raised by the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust (WAST) during a readiness check.

But a recruitment drive has been successful and the plan now is to launch the 11 service in Gwent on August 13.

The 111 service for Gwent is designed to cope with around 126,500 calls a year, and will include around 20 call handling staff and 11 clinical advisors (nurses).


Currently in Gwent, the GP out-of-hours service and NHS Direct are contacted through different telephone numbers, but the new service - already being used in the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg, Hywel Dda and Powys health board areas - provides access to health advice and treatment through the single 111 number.

Under the 111 system, call handlers take calls from the public and if necessary connect callers with a nurse who carries out telephone triage.

If during this process there is an indication that a patient needs 999 intervention, they are transferred immediately to that service.

Patients who cannot be dealt with at call handler or triage stage are passed to the relevant out-of-hours team.

This team is supported on weekday evenings and for 12 hours a day at weekends and on bank holidays - periods when out-of-hours demand is typically higher - by members of a clinical 'hub' which includes GPs, pharmacists and nurses.

The aim is to bring a multi-disciplinary approach to the service rather than relying on a traditional GP-only model of care.

The Gwent system has undergone a series of tests at peak times prior to its introduction.

Based on evidence from other parts of Wales where the 111 system has been introduced, the indication is that demand for face-to-face appointments in the out-of-hours services will potentially fall by up to 40 per cent.

If replicated in Gwent, it should enable Aneurin Bevan University Health Board to improve the sustainability of the GP out-of-hours service.