Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is 111 and why are you introducing it now?
NHS 111 Wales will integrate two services that are currently provided by different parts of the NHS in Wales – namely NHS Direct Wales and the GP Out of Hours service when your own surgery is closed. The introduction of a simple, free, memorable three-digit number has been planned in NHS Wales for a number of years. We know people sometimes find it hard to know which service to contact and when, so introducing a free-to-call number will make it easier not just to access urgent care, but also health information and advice if patients are not sure about what to do. It will also help ensure A&E departments and emergency ambulance services are used only for those patients who need them in a life-threatening emergency.
Q. Why would I phone 111? What help can I get? Do I call this number instead of my GP or 999?
During the working week (8.00am-6.30pm, Monday to Friday), your own GP practice is available in the usual way and this will continue to be the main service that patients routinely use. There is no change in how and when you access your own GP during those hours. Some people don’t realise that, outside of these hours and on Bank Holidays, there are always GPs and other health professionals available to respond to urgent issues for patients who can’t wait until their GP practice re-opens. By linking NHS Direct Wales with GP out-of-hours, NHS 111 Wales will be able to offer a range of health information, advice and urgent treatment when your condition or issue is urgent but not life-threatening. Remember, 999 should only ever be used when there is a life-threatening emergency. So if it is not an emergency, use 111.
Q. Who will I speak to? Will they know what they are talking about or will they just rely on computer software?
If you call 111, you will initially speak to a trained call taker. All of our call takers undergo extensive training and education and they will ask you a series of short questions and take basic details (including your name, address, date of birth and so on) so that healthcare professionals such as doctors and nurses can focus on a clinical assessment. This will help us prioritise the urgency of calls so that the sickest people get treated first.
Q. Will I get the help I need straight away or a call back/doctor’s appointment/ambulance?
Depending on the urgency and severity of your call, you may speak to a healthcare professional, who could be a pharmacist, nurse, paramedic or a doctor. Sometimes it may be necessary for you to speak to more than one person to get the right treatment, but we will keep this to an absolute minimum so you get to speak with the right healthcare professional first time. If your need is urgent and requires you to see a GP out-of-hours, you will be asked to attend a primary care centre based at one of our hospital sites, as is the case currently. However, for the majority of conditions, our highly skilled nurses or pharmacists will be able to deal with many cases. Our call takers are trained to recognise when there is a threat to life; if you dial 111 but do need an ambulance, you will be put through to the emergency ambulance service.
Q. What are the benefits to patients and what are the benefits to the NHS?
The main benefit to patients is that for the first time, you will have access to a range of services by dialing a single free-to-call number that will make it easier for you to get the right service. This helps to keep our emergency departments (EDs, or also known as A&E) and 999 service for those who really need them. The other benefit is that sometimes patients think EDs are the only place available, especially at night or weekends. Ringing 111 will help to signpost patients to the right place.
Q. I live in the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board area, but every time I try and ring the 111 number from my mobile, I’m being told that the service isn’t available in my area. Why is that?
If the Wi-Fi Calling feature is enabled on your mobile phone, it could be interfering with your location when trying to ring the 111 service. To ensure that we can determine your correct location, you will need to turn off Wi-Fi Calling before dialing. To turn off Wi-Fi Calling, you’ll need to change the settings in your phone. The process is slightly different for each phone, so please contact your service provider for help with how to do this.
Q. Will I be able to talk to someone in Welsh if I want to?
Yes, the first message you will hear when dialing 111 asks you to choose whether you want to continue the call in English or in Welsh. NHS 111 Wales employs a number of Welsh speakers, and we will offer you the opportunity to conduct your conversation in Welsh.
Q. I live outside of Wales but I may need to contact the service on behalf of a relative who lives in the BCUHB area. What do I do?
If you call 111 from outside of Wales you will be routed to the 111 service in your current location. It is not possible to connect NHS 111 calls made outside of Wales to the NHS 111 Wales system. If you are calling from outside Wales on behalf of a relative who requires urgent out-of-hours medical support, please call their GP for more information and follow the instructions on the answerphone message.
Q. I live in the BCUHB area but work elsewhere. What happens if I wanted to ring 111 whilst at work?
NHS 111 Wales is now in operation throughout all areas of Wales, apart from the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board area. If you require urgent out-of-hours medical support but are working outside the BCUHB area, please call 111 and you will be connected to the NHS 111 Wales service as normal.
If you are working in Cardiff or the Vale of Glamorgan, or outside of Wales, and require urgent out-of-hours medical support, please call your GP for more information and follow the instructions on the answerphone message.
Q. What happens if I don’t speak English or Welsh?
If you don’t speak English, we will still be able to help you. We use a service called Language Line and this enables us to have a three-way phone call with an interpreter so that we can still provide the help that you need.
Q. What happens if I am deaf?
The InterpreterNow service, which is available seven days a week, between 8am and midnight, is available for deaf (and hearing) British Sign Language [BSL] users to communicate with hearing people via an online BSL interpreter. InterpreterNow can be accessed using a computer, or via the InterpreterNow app on your smartphone or tablet. Once you have contacted the InterpreterNow service, the interpreter will contact us by telephone and relay your conversation with a member of our team e.g. a Nurse Advisor or a Health Information Advisor, depending on what the problem is. You will be asked a series of questions to assess your needs, and then will be provided with the appropriate healthcare advice or directed to the local service that can help you best.
Q. Where is the money for this coming from?
The Welsh Government funded the implementation and set-up costs for several NHS 111 Wales pilot sites. Each health board in Wales is now directly contributing to the implementation costs of NHS 111 Wales and further roll-outs across Wales. Overall this represents a direct increase in funding to out-of-hours services for Welsh patients.
Q. Is there a website available?
The NHS 111 Wales website – 111.wales.nhs.uk – provides information on local services, as well as comprehensive information on health issues. There are also symptom checkers on a range of common health problems. Visitors to the nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk site will be redirected to the new NHS 111 Wales site.
Q. Where is the call centre based? Why are we ringing a 111 call centre rather than the local out of hours services where they understand the local community and local services?
NHS 111 Wales has call centres throughout the country and many new staff have been recruited to support the service in North Wales. Each centre uses a comprehensive directory of services to give patients a high level of care and advice, with all staff taking part in a comprehensive ongoing programme of training and development. The GP Out of Hours service will continue to provide local care when needed.
Q. Who runs the 111 phone line?
NHS 111 Wales is run by the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust.
Q. I have heard that 111 leads to an increase in the number of referrals to ambulance services. Is this the case?
NHS 111 Wales already has significant experience of providing 111 services throughout Wales, without increased demand on ambulance services.
Q. Who do I complain to if I have a concern about 111 and my out of hours care?
If you have a concern about the service received from NHS 111 Wales, please contact the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust Putting Things Right team or call 0300 321 321 1.
If you have a concern about the service received from Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board GP Out of Hours Service, please contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service or call 03000 851 234.
Community Health Councils (CHC) exists to represent and protect public interests in NHS services by monitoring the quality of care, seeking redress where appropriate and acting as a source of information for local people. They are available to advise and provide assistance to anyone with a suggestion or concern about the health service.