North London Partners in health and care

Urgent and Emergency Care - NHS 111 First


Several changes to urgent care are being introduced to make it easier and safer for patients to get the right treatment at the right time, while preventing overcrowding in emergency departments (EDs). This is especially important in light of Covid-19 to reduce the risk of infection and protect patients and hospital staff.    

Booking appointments in emergency departments 

NHS 111 can book appointments in emergency departments. The new system started in autumn 2020 at North Middlesex University Hospital and Barnet Hospital, and has now expanded to emergency departments at the Royal Free, UCLH and Whittington Health from December. Children and those needing mental health treatment are now also included.

NHS 111 can also make direct appointments at most GP surgeries, GP hubs and urgent treatment centres (UTC) and refer to over 1,600 London pharmacies for urgent and repeat medication advice.

A national ‘NHS 111 First’ marketing campaign launched on 1 December, asking those who think they need to go to A&E to contact NHS 111 to get help quickly and safely. This is being supplemented London-wide and local communications.

NHS 111 First will bring several improvements for Londoners:

  • Patients will get to speak with a clinician earlier and get the right treatment first time. 
  • If someone contacting NHS 111 needs urgent face-to-face assessment or treatment, an appointment can be arranged there and then. 
  • By advising people where and when to go, crowding and waiting times in ED/A&E waiting rooms can be minimised, reducing the risk of coronavirus transmission. 
  • People will be more likely to get appropriate care closer to home.

If patients do make their own way to EDs/A&Es and UTCs, they will continue to be treated. However, those whose conditions are less urgent may need to wait elsewhere or be asked to return for a later appointment. Using 111 first will help patients get quicker, safer care in the right environment and reduce the risk of the coronavirus spreading.

Arrangements will not change for people with serious or life-threatening illnesses or injuries, who should continue to dial 999 as before.

Increased capacity

To support these initiatives and winter pressures, in north central London we have increased capacity from our NHS 111 provider LCW by around 20%. This means that more healthcare professionals and trained health advisors than ever before will be available to respond to Londoners’ health needs. More than two in three people who call 111 speak to a clinician. 

Developing our approach 

This approach has been developed by hospital consultants, GPs, nurses, paramedics pharmacists, social workers, mental health specialists, NHS 111 teams in the capital, using local knowledge and expertise.