WEST Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) is to take over the running of the non-emergency NHS 111 service, in a first for the country.

The plan will see the 111 and 999 services integrated into a single service and ambulance chiefs say it will provide significant improvements for patient care, but have said it will lead to more patients “being provided with care over the phone.”

NHS 111 is a free number for patients with urgent, but not life-threatening, symptoms and operates 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Calls get through to a trained call handler who can provide help.

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WMAS will take over the running of the service from Care UK in most of the region from November.

WMAS chief executive, Anthony Marsh, said: “We will initially deliver the current service over the winter period but will then look to properly integrate the two in 2020.

“I firmly believe that this will be positive for both sets of staff for example, providing new opportunities to develop and progress their careers.

“By integrating 111 and 999, patients can be better directed to the most appropriate care for their needs.

“Call 999 only for life-threatening conditions.

“Call 111 if it isn’t an immediate emergency or a life-threatening condition - whatever number you ring the ambulance service will manage your call.”

Rachael Ellis, chief officer for integrated urgent and emergency care, Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG, added: “This is truly a first for the country and will lead to real benefits for patients and staff.

“The new service in development will see fewer patients being sent ambulances and a reduction in the number of patients asked to attend A&E.

"The new model will support more patients being cared for in the most appropriate place for their needs.”

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