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Improving mental health care in the NHS 111 service

Dr Sarah Markham

Published 8 December 2015

Mental health care

Dr Sarah Markham is a member of Verita’s Mental Health Advisory Group


Whenever there is a news report presenting NHS 111 in a less than flattering light, I become dismayed. For over half a year I have been a patient representative working with NHS 111 to improve its services for mental health service users. I have been truly impressed by NHS England’s commitment to making this the best service it can be.

Over the past year NHS 111 has set up various listening events to gather views from providers and those accessing the service. It has developed a service user led training package for NHS 111 call handlers and established a service user board to access further, more focused guidance and feedback in order to continue to inform quality improvements in areas such as access to patient information, triage and assessment, DoS (Directory of Services) profiling and increasing public awareness of NHS 111.

A recent service evaluation survey of 111 services in North West London, led by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health RCPCH , in partnership with NHS England, the Health Foundation and the Picker Institute, revealed that on calling the helpline 84% of people ‘got what they needed’, while 80% said they would call NHS 111 again if they had the same problem.


Further findings, published in the recent report, show that of 1,000 parents and carers interviewed via telephone:

  • Almost all parents felt listened to (93%)
  • Over three quarters had confidence and trust in the first person they spoke to (78%)
  • Over two thirds were given enough information to assist them (72%)
  • 33% of callers were given advice on how to look after the problem themselves, 23% were told to go to another urgent care service such as walk-in clinic and an appointment at an urgent care service was made for 20% by the NHS 111 health advisor
  • 91% fully followed the advice or action received from NHS 111.

No service gets it right 100% of the time. It is unrealistic to expect this. What I have witnessed from the people I have worked with at NHS England and those who I have worked with at NHS 111, is a real drive to learn from mistakes and to improve the service they deliver whenever possible. It would be so helpful and beneficial to the morale of staff and service users alike if the media were to pay a little more attention to all the good work going on in NHS 111.

Verita is an independent team providing investigations consultancy work with organisations in a variety of sectors throughout the UK
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