The NHS in London is making it easier and safer for patients to get the right treatment at the right time, without waiting for long periods of time to be seen in an emergency department.

The NHS is asking patients with an urgent, but not life-threatening, health problem to contact NHS 111 first if they think they need to attend an emergency department. You can either call 111 or visit 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and the service is free to use (including from all mobiles).

NHS 111 can now book time slots in emergency departments for those who need them across north Central London at Barnet Hospital, North Middlesex University Hospital and in the coming weeks the Royal Free Hospital. Patients who need urgent or emergency care will be advised where they need to go for treatment and a timeslot can be booked for them. By 1 December, this will be expanded across all London emergency departments.

NHS 111 can also make direct appointments at GP surgeries and urgent treatment centres in north central London. NHS 111 can despatch an ambulance, if the patient’s condition is serious or life-threatening.

By contacting NHS 111 first if you think you need to attend an emergency department for an urgent, but not serious or life-threatening medical need, you will:

  • speak with a health care professional earlier, and get the right treatment first time
  • be able to arrange an urgent face-to-face appointment, if needed
  • avoid waiting for a long time in emergency waiting rooms

More doctors, nurses, pharmacists, paramedics, dental nurses and trained health advisors than ever before are available to look after Londoners as part of the NHS 111 service.

Callers in mental health crisis who call NHS 111 are assessed with the same care as callers with physical symptoms. Once assessed, the call is transferred to local mental health crisis services to ensure callers receive timely specialist mental health support.

Arrangements will not change for people with life-threatening illnesses or injuries, who should still dial 999 immediately. If you do make your own way to an emergency department, you will still receive medical care.

However, using 111 first will help you get quicker, safer care in the right environment. These changes will help the NHS to minimise the risk of coronavirus spreading by allowing more space for social distancing in emergency department waiting rooms.