The ‘Phone First’ service, which has been operating for the past two weeks on a trial basis for the Causeway Hospital Emergency Department, aims to “ensure that patients can get direct access to the right care, avoiding busy waiting rooms and staying safe”, the Northern Health and Social Care Trust has said.
The service is designed for patients, including children, who are feeling unwell and considering travelling to an ED or minor injuries unit with an injury or illness which requires urgent treatment but is not immediately life-threatening.
When someone calls the Phone First service, their condition, or that of the person they are calling on behalf of, will be clinically assessed and arrangements made to access the most appropriate service.
This may mean they will be offered an appointment at the Emergency Department or Minor Injuries Unit, require further investigations or redirected to a patient a GP or GP Out of Hours.
However, the Trust has stated that those who attend an ED without ringing first will not be turned away.
If their condition is not life-threatening, they may have to wait longer or be signposted to another service.
Head of General Medical Services at the Health and Social Care Board, Dr Margaret O’Brien, said: “With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in our community, it is more important than ever that patients who need emergency treatment aren’t asked to wait in crowded waiting rooms where they may be exposed to the virus.
“The Phone First service aims to keep our over-stretched EDs for emergencies, whilst ensuring rapid access, assessment and treatment on a 24/7 basis for patients who need urgent care.”
Dr Mark Jenkins, an emergency medicine consultant at Antrim Area Hospital, said: “The roll-out of the Phone First service will improve patient safety in terms of preventing overcrowding and reducing long waits in our EDs and Minor Injuries Service. It will also help reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection and transmission.
“We need your help at this extremely difficult time and I encourage patients to please Phone First if your condition is not life threatening. However, if it is an emergency, if the situation is critical or life-threatening, then please always ring 999 immediately.”
The Northern Trust Phone First service will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The number is 0300 123 1 123.
The Phone First text relay number is 18001 0300 123 1 123 and it’s also available through the Interpreter Now app.
Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter.
Click here to read: Antrim Area Hospital ‘operating beyond capacity’
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