NHS to invest £1.7m in helpline to tackle coronavirus call surge

  • Video report by ITV News Health Correspondent Emily Morgan

Health leaders are investing an extra £1.7 million in the NHS non-emergency helpline to offer more clinical advice about coronavirus.

NHS England has also put a new NHS 111 online service in place after a surge in inquiries about the virus.

More than 35,000 people used the site in a single day over the weekend to get help and advice, it said.

The extra £1.7 million will be invested in providing more clinical advice over the phone, while further funding will provide 500 additional initial call responders with the capacity to answer around 20,000 more calls every day, the NHS said.

The additional investment will free up clinical call handlers’ time so they are able to prioritise callers with symptoms, NHS England said.

Investment will increase if demand continues to rise, it added.

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “NHS staff are working round the clock to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

“We know that 111 has come under pressure as people have understandably turned to the service for help, support and advice which is why we are ploughing in funding to increase staff available to field calls.

“The public is also now benefiting from the new NHS 111 online service which is helping increase capacity and free up clinicians’ time by offering specific help and advice on coronavirus at the touch of a button and has already had more than 70,000 hits since launched on Wednesday.

“I would like to say a personal thank-you to all those NHS staff who are doing an incredible job caring for patients, testing thousands of worried people and taking calls from thousands more.”

However, in primary care many GPs believe the NHS is not ready to deal with an outbreak.

There is frustration at a lack of equipment for them, according to Dr Steve Mowle of the Royal College of General Practitioners who told ITV News: "There are concerns around protective equipment.

"Masks and other equipment are being made available in Scotland and Northern Ireland, in England that hasn't been confirmed as yet.

"I think GPs and their staff will need that level of protection."