Phone First at SWAH ED hailed as a success

THE NEW ‘Phone First’ telephone triage system at the SWAH emergency department (ED) is having “a significant impact” in reducing footfall at the hospital and helping patients get the right treatment.
Introduced at the Enniskillen hospital at the end of January, as part of a trial roll out across the Western, Southern, and Northern HSC trust areas, the system requires all patients who would previously have attended the ED to call or text the ‘Phone First’ numbers. This does not apply to those experiencing a medical emergency or are critically ill.
Aimed at reducing pressure and footfall at the ED and pointing patients to more appropriate care, those who call are assessed over the phone and advised to either attend their GP, pharmacy, the ED itself, or another service.
Now, a new study by the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) has shown the new system is working.
For example, at the Western Trust’s two EDs, at SWAH and Altnagelvin, up until February 21, a 1,484 calls were received. Of these, 54 percent were directed to attend the ED, while 20 percent were referred to the minor injuries unit, and 22 percent were given advice or referred to their GP.
With similar statistics at other trusts, head of general medical services at the HSCB, Dr Margaret O’Brien, welcomed the results.
“The pandemic has created unprecedented challenges across health and social care, highlighting the importance of working together to improve access to our services and prioritise those who need them most,” she said, adding it was “encouraging” the Phone First services had been such a success in helping reduce ED pressures during the third Covid surge.
“The key aim of Phone first is to keep EDs for emergencies only and early feedback has indicated a substantial reduction in the number of patients being triaged and treated for minor illness or injuries in our EDs,” she continued.
“Given the clear evidence and success of the Phone First service trials we now envisage rolling the service out across all EDs and Urgent Care services in Northern Ireland in the spring.”
To contact the Phone First service call 0300 0206000 or text 08702405152. In the case of a life threatening emergency, however, always call 999 immediately.

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