NHS 111 is a free, non-emergency service available for urgent health care assessment. If you are unsure which healthcare service you need to visit, the NHS 111 service will signpost you to the most appropriate care for your condition, which could be your GP, local pharmacy or walk-in centre. It could also be the emergency department or an emergency ambulance if required.
The service is available 24 hours a day by dialling 111 or by going to 111.nhs.uk.
If you do not need to be seen by a healthcare professional, advice about how to self-care at home will be given by one of our clinically trained advisors. If you are in need of emergency care, we will transfer your call to the ambulance operations centre where an ambulance will be sent to you, if required, in accordance with the severity of the condition.
What happens when you use NHS 111?
When you call NHS 111 one of our specially trained health advisors will take you through a series of questions. We will firstly ask for your name, address and telephone number so we can be sure we have your correct details to call you back if needed.
You will be asked to explain:
- What the symptoms are, how they affect you and when they began
- What you have tried already
- Any medication you are already taking
- Any existing medical conditions
- Anything else that you think is relevant
At the end of your clinical assessment we’ll advise you on the next best step for your care. The NHS 111 health advisor will be able to:
- Decide what clinical help you need
- Tell you where you need to go to get that clinical help
Sometimes, if appropriate, your call may be referred to one of our clinicians – a trained nurse or paramedic – for further assessment of your condition or for medical advice.
You may feel that some of the questions are unnecessary, but patient care and safety is our top priority – we need to rule out a life-threatening condition first and direct you to the most appropriate healthcare service to suit your needs as quickly as possible.
If you use 111.nhs.uk, the process is very similar but all online – you will be asked questions and, depending on the answers you give about your symptoms, you will be given advice on what to do or where to go next.
What care services can we direct you to?
We can put you in touch with services such as:
- Out-of-hours doctor – where you can go to get medical help that is not an emergency when your own doctor’s surgery is closed.
- Late opening pharmacy – to buy medicine and obtain advice when your usual chemist is closed.
- Community nurse – a local nurse who can visit you and give you care.
- Emergency dentist – for urgent dental help when your usual dental surgery is closed.
- Walk-in centre or minor injuries unit – for urgent medical help without an appointment
- An emergency department at a hospital – if you need urgent and emergency medical care.
NHS 111 First
If you have an urgent but not life-threatening medical need, contact NHS 111 first rather than going straight to A&E. If you do need urgent care, then NHS 111 can now book you in to be seen quickly and safely in your local A&E. As well as this, NHS 111 is also able to direct book an appointment at urgent treatment centres, GP surgeries, pharmacies, emergency dental services and walk-in clinics.
Contacting 111 first will also help the NHS to keep you and your family safe by maintaining social distancing and ensuring that you receive the right care in the right place, in a more timely and safe way.
If you or your loved ones have a life-threatening illness or injury then you should always use 999. If you do arrive at A&E without contacting NHS 111 you will still receive medical care, with emergency treatments prioritised.
Just think 111 first. When you think you need A&E, contact NHS 111 by phone or online.
Alternative access to NHS 111
If you have difficulties communicating or hearing, you can:
- Call 18001 111 on a text phone or using the Next Generation Text (NGT) Lite app on your smartphone, tablet or computer; or
- Use the NHS 111 British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter service if you’re deaf and want to use the phone service.
NHS England has produced this video to help people with a learning disability, autism or both, to use the NHS 111 service.
Other resources are also available on the NHS 111 service including: