Calls to Bedfordshire's NHS 111 service drop significantly since start of Covid-19 pandemic

It could be because more people know more about the virus now, says NHS

By Clare Turner
Tuesday, 22nd December 2020, 3:38 pm
Updated Tuesday, 22nd December 2020, 3:40 pm

The number of calls to Bedfordshire's NHS 111 service has nearly halved from the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, new figures show.

The NHS believes fewer people are using the service now they know more about the virus and what to do if they suspect they have caught it.

NHS England figures show the Bedfordshire 111 helpline received 22,923 calls in November, down from 43,676 received in March – a fall of 48 per cent.

NHS England figures show the Bedfordshire 111 helpline received 22,923 calls in November, down from 43,676 received in March

However, last month's figure was 3 per cent up from October.

Demand for the service remains above the level in November last year, when there were 21,275 calls.

A report by charity Health Foundation said NHS 111 played a critical role in helping people with medical problems without the risk of unnecessary exposure to Covid-19 at their GP.

Tim Gardner, senior policy fellow at the group, said: "As the pandemic took hold in March, there was a large spike in activity, with the number of calls made to NHS 111 more than doubling from March 2019 to March 2020.

"The volume of calls returned close to normal levels in the summer, and so far there is no indication that we will see a surge in calls on the scale of March 2020, partly because of easier access to testing and also greater access to online assessment."

But he added: "Even as the vaccines are rolled out, much of what happens in the next six months will depend on the effectiveness of the measures taken to control the spread of the virus."

Of the answered calls to the Bedfordshire 111 helpline in November, 85 per cent were answered within 60 seconds, while 3 per cent of all calls were abandoned after 30 seconds of waiting.

The most common outcome saw the patient advised to either contact or go to a primary care service such as a GP – 54 per cent of calls resulted in this.

In 6 per cent of calls the patient was told to go to A&E, in 10 per cent an ambulance was sent and in 9 per cent advice was given over the phone or the caller hung up before it was given.