Falling ill at any time can be worrying for all of us, but when the GP surgery is closed, where do you turn? In Lincolnshire, a new clinical assessment service has been launched within the NHS 111 system. Wendy Martin, executive lead nurse, midwife and quality at NHS Lincolnshire West CCG, explains more in the following column for The Lincolnite:

Most of us have heard of the NHS 111 service. It is the number to call if we need urgent medical advice or treatment in and out of hours but our case isn’t serious enough to attend accident and emergency.

The national 111 service is very important for helping people access the right care and treatment for their needs at times when the traditional routes such as GP surgeries are closed.

And here in Lincolnshire, we have gone one step further to provide an even better service with the introduction of the Lincolnshire Clinical Assessment Service (CAS).

The service has been fully established since April this year and since October last year we have also had a new provider for the 111 service.

CAS means that a Lincolnshire clinician will pick up all calls into the 111 service that require clinical input.

This clinician is able to discuss the patient’s medical needs, recommend and arrange treatment and/or refer the patient onwards to the most appropriate service within the county.

The route into CAS in Lincolnshire is still through NHS 111.

When you ring 111 your call is picked up by a trained health advisor, who is often not a clinician but is supported by a team of clinicians.

You are then taken through a series of questions to determine what the best service is for your needs. If you need to speak to a clinician the health advisor will arrange for you to speak directly to the clinician or arrange for one to call you back in a time frame suitable to the clinical urgency.

CAS picks up these clinical calls and this is CAS in action.

For example, if it is a significant head injury your call is likely to be put either immediately through to a clinician or you will be called back quickly in order that you can fully discuss your injury with a clinician promptly.

Depending on how the assessment with the clinician goes, they can recommend and arrange treatment, make an appointment for you with the Out of Hours GP service if needed, advise you to attend A&E if it is an actual emergency or if not urgent to see your own GP in the next day or two.

To date, GP feedback on the new CAS service has been very positive. There is a monthly quality review of the service undertaken by the CCGs and the service is functioning really well to ensure patients receive care in the right place and at the right time, depending on their need.

Having patients speak to a Lincolnshire clinician is particularly helpful as they can not only give health advice and treatment but are also very aware of what provision for onward care is available in the county and it ensures patients are dealt with quickly, correctly and safely.

Wendy Martin is executive lead nurse, midwife and quality at NHS Lincolnshire West CCG