Patients would be required to book an appointment via NHS 111.
A leading expert in Public Health has said that asking patients to book A&E appointments via NHS 111 “is a disaster waiting to happen”.
The pilot, designed to reduce crowding in A&E departments and prioritise those most in need, will see patients calling NHS 111 to book a space in their local emergency department.
Professor Gurch Randhawa, Professor of Diversity in Public Health and Director of the Institute for Health Research at the University of Bedfordshire, says the policy once again demonstrates that the government is not taking disadvantaged groups into account when devising its COVID-19 response.
Healthcare professionals have supported these concerns on social media suggesting those most at risk, such victims of domestic abuse and violence, would be unable to ask for help. The peak of the pandemic also saw critically NHS 111 overloaded.
If pilots are successful, the scheme could be rolled out to all NHS trusts in December.
Failing to learn vital lessons.
Professor Gurch Randhawa said; “Triaging access to urgent care through the NHS 111 free-to-call phone line is no doubt intended to stop Covid-19 spreading in hospital waiting rooms but it is a huge risk to the communities, especially older people, lower socio-economic groups, and BAME communities, that our research has consistently shown have difficulty accessing healthcare by phone and online.”
“Throughout the pandemic the government has consistently failed to undertake a proper equality impact assessment of its response to Covid-19.
“Given this it is quite frankly flabbergasting that NHS 111 will be the gateway to the emergency care system. This will disadvantage the communities at greatest risk during the pandemic.
“The government is failing to learn vital lessons from its previous errors. If we continue like this, a rise in health inequality will be one of the principal outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic.”