ITV News has uncovered claims that the NHS non-emergency 111 helpline - which was meant to help ease the burden on A&E departments in England - is instead pushing some "to breaking point".
Medical staff on the frontline claim there has been a big jump in the number of 999 callouts and a sharp rise in patients arriving in A&E departments - most of which are not urgent. They tell us this is because:
- Inexperienced 111 call centre staff are being too cautious and referring them to 999
- The computerised system of the list of questions callers are asked often leads to the conclusion of "call an ambulance"
- Callers often get tired of waiting for a call back from staff at the non-emergency helpline, or after a bad experience they end up taking themselves to A&E
NHS England says the service is working fine in most areas.