Tens of thousands of reports of coronavirus symptoms made to NHS 111 service in East Lancashire

NHS 111 services in East Lancashire have logged tens of thousands of users reporting coronavirus symptoms since March, new figures show.

Tuesday, 19th May 2020, 12:30 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th May 2020, 2:00 pm

Total calls to the NHS 111 service in the North-West dropped last month, however, as health think tank the Nuffield Trust expressed concerns those who need urgent treatment may be put off seeking help.

NHS England data shows 20,388 occasions when someone in the NHS East Lancashire CCG area logged possible Covid-19 symptoms from March 18th to May 14th.

The vast majority of these (83%) were through NHS 111 online assessments, with the remaining 17% over the phone.

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NHS England data shows 20,388 occasions when someone in the NHS East Lancashire CCG area logged possible Covid-19 symptoms from March 18th to May 14th

Across England, there were more than 3 million reports of potential coronavirus through 111 services over the two-month period.

In East Lancashire more than half of these (55%) came in just two weeks in March, with only 9% reported in the first two weeks of May.

Separate figures show the North-West 111 helpline received a total of 222,237 calls in April.

This was 36% less than it did in March, when there were 347,877.

Sarah Scobie, the Nuffield Trust's deputy director of research, said the 111 tool was "essential" to keep patients with suspected Covid-19 symptoms safe, and those who seek advice on other conditions.

She said: "This month's data suggests that the NHS 111 service is less in demand this month, and better able to take the pressure off frontline services.

"A high number of NHS 111 calls and the fall in hospital attendances suggest that people are still making careful choices about going to hospitals.

"There are now legitimate concerns that those who do require urgent medical treatment may be put off from seeking help due to fear of infection or a desire to reduce pressure on overstretched health and services, despite some reassurances from the NHS that these services are still open."

Of the calls taken last month, 23% were abandoned by callers kept waiting for 30 seconds or more.

This was an improvement on March, when 41% were abandoned, but a rise on the 2% from last April.

The Health Foundation said the data shows that many people's needs may have gone unmet during the pandemic, while others' conditions may have become worse.

Sarah Deeny, assistant director of data analytics, added: "As they begin to resume core health services, it is vital that Government and the NHS understand the full extent of people’s unmet health needs."

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said the 111 service performed strongly in April, rebounding from the pressure it faced in March.

He said: "A&E attendances were sharply down, but the majority of these reductions were for lower risk conditions.

"Urgent cancer referrals are now picking back up – having doubled over the past three weeks – and the NHS has launched a public information campaign reminding the people of the importance of seeking care for urgent and emergency conditions.”