The NHS is encouraging the public to use NHS 111 online to get urgent medical advice quickly – in addition to existing services – ahead of what England’s top doctor says will be a ‘winter like no other’.
The NHS ‘Help Us, Help You’ campaign will use TV adverts, social media posts and billboards to promote the online service, which provides advice and support to patients with urgent but not life-threatening medical issues.
Patients should continue to come forward for care and are still being encouraged to speak to a pharmacist, GP or call 111 if they need urgent advice.
NHS 111 online can direct patients to urgent treatment centres and walk-in clinics, GP surgeries, pharmacies and emergency dental services and, if needed, a call from a healthcare professional.
With more people predicted to suffer from flu this year and hospitals already treating an increased number of Covid-19 patients, NHS 111 online offers an alternative way to get immediate medical advice.
Data from September showed that the NHS was already experiencing record demand for emergency services, with ambulances responding to 76,000 life-threatening incidents and call handlers taking more than one million 999 calls.
The NHS 111 phone service also saw record demand, with a call being taken every seven seconds.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: "As we approach an extremely tough winter, using NHS 111 online first will ensure everyone who needs medical advice can access it quickly and conveniently, alongside other services, while allowing us to care for the most seriously ill and injured patients in our Emergency Units.
"So if you need urgent care but it’s not life-threatening, visit 111 online first – we’ll put you in touch with a healthcare professional if needed and help you get the treatment you need – and please continue to come forward for care, including through 111, your pharmacist or GP if you prefer.
"And it remains as important as ever to get your life-saving Covid jab, and with winter approaching, it is important to get your flu jab too if you are eligible”.
People use the online 111 service for a range of reasons, including to check their symptoms and if an injury or illness requires further investigation, to get information on mental health support services available, or to seek advice on how to take a medication.
The online tool can also advise whether a patient should contact their GP, visit a pharmacist or call 999, while people can receive a call from a healthcare professional if needed.
This phase of the ‘Help Us, Help You’ campaign will run across a range of platforms, including television and social media, in an effort to increase public knowledge of the NHS 111 online service.
The NHS has started the coronavirus booster campaign with over six million top-up jabs already done, and the largest ever flu campaign is also underway with tens of millions eligible for the flu jab free this winter.
To protect themselves and the NHS this winter, people should get their booster jab when invited to do so and can contact their local pharmacy or GP to book in the flu jab now.