Tue, 17 Nov 2020
People are being asked to ring 111 before visiting A&E at the Royal Berkshire Hospital.
The change of policy has been announced this week by the Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group, in conjunction with the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust.
It is meant to ensure efficient use of healthcare resources and to allow for the observation of social distancing restrictions on hospital premises.
The new guidance suggests that all reports of urgent but non-life-threatening injuries and conditions be directed to a 111 operator.
They will triage the call and direct the patient to the most relevant service.
These revised arrangements do not apply in case of emergencies, such as suspected heart attacks, strokes or serious breathing difficulties.
In such instances, residents should call 999 or seek support at A&E.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has led to concerns over crowd conditions in hospitals, with fears that unnecessary A&E visits could exacerbate the situation.
Dr Zac Etheridge, clinical lead for acute medicine, said: "NHS 111 First will help people get the most appropriate care for their medical condition.
"Many people who come to ED don't have emergency, life-threatening conditions and could be treated elsewhere, often more quickly.
"So whilst we still need people to ring 999 and come to ED during emergencies, we would ask those seeking non emergency care to contact NHS 111 First.
"They will then receive the best care in a timely and more convenient way.
"This new way of working means we can cut the queues, over crowing and longer waits in ED and this will also help us reduce the risk of infection of things like Covid and flu."