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Impact of NHS 111 Online on the NHS 111 telephone service and urgent care system: a mixed-methods study

Turner, Janette and Knowles, Emma and Simpson, Rebecca and Sampson, Fiona and Dixon, Simon and Long, Jaqui and Bell-Gorrod, Helen and Jacques, Richard and Coster, Joanne and Yang, Hui and Nicholl, Jon and Bath, Peter and Fall, Daniel (2021) 'Impact of NHS 111 Online on the NHS 111 telephone service and urgent care system: a mixed-methods study.' Health Services and Delivery Research, 9 (21). pp. 1-148. ISSN 2050-4357

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Background The NHS emergency and urgent care system is under pressure as demand for services increases each year. NHS 111 is a telephone triage service designed to provide advice and signposting to appropriate services for people with urgent health-care problems. A new service, NHS 111 Online, has been introduced across England as a digital alternative that can be accessed using a website or a smartphone application. The effects and usefulness of this service are unknown. Objectives To explore the impact of NHS 111 Online on the related telephone service and urgent care system activity and the experiences of people who use those services. Design and methods A mixed-methods design of five related work packages comprising an evidence review; a quantitative before-and-after time series analysis of changes in call activity (18/38 sites); a descriptive comparison of telephone and online services with qualitative survey (telephone, n=795; online, n=3728) and interview (32 participants) studies of service users; a qualitative interview study (16 participants) of staff; and a cost–consequences analysis. Results The online service had little impact on the number of triaged calls to the NHS 111 telephone service. For every 1000 online contacts, triaged telephone calls increased by 1.3% (1.013, 95% confidence interval 0.996 to 1.029; p=0.127). Recommendations to attend emergency and urgent care services increased between 6.7% and 4.2%. NHS 111 Online users were less satisfied than users of the telephone service (50% vs. 71%; p<0.001), and less likely to recommend to others (57% vs. 69%; p<0.001) and to report full compliance with the advice given (67.5% vs. 88%; p<0.001). Online users were less likely to report contacting emergency services and more likely to report not making any contact with a health service (31% vs. 16%; p<0.001) within 7 days of contact. Thirty-five per cent of online users reported that they did not want to use the telephone service, whereas others preferred its convenience and speed. NHS 111 telephone staff reported no discernible increase or decrease in their workload during the first year of operation of NHS 111 Online. If online and telephone services operate in parallel, then the annual costs will be higher unless ≥38% of telephone contacts move to online contacts. Conclusions There is some evidence that the new service has the potential to create new demand. The service has expanded significantly, so it is important to find ways of promoting the right balance in numbers of people who use the online service instead of the telephone service if it is to be effective. There is a clear need and preference by some people for an online service. Better information about when to use this service and improvements to questioning may encourage more uptake. Limitations The lack of control arm means that impact could have been an effect of other factors. This work took place during the early implementation phase, so findings may change as the service expands. Future work Further development of the online triage process to make it more ‘user friendly’ and to enable users to trust the advice given online could improve use and increase satisfaction. Better understanding of the characteristics of the telephone and online populations could help identify who is most likely to benefit and could improve information about when to use the service. Trial registration Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN51801112.

Item Type: Article
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Health > Mathematical Sciences, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2022 19:37
Last Modified: 24 Jan 2022 19:37

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