THE new NHS non-emergency telephone service is going from strength to strength four months after being set up.

The NHS 111 service run by West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) took over from NHS Direct in November last year and last week announced it had answered its 250,000th call, with 97 per cent of these answered within 60 seconds, beating the national average of 95 per cent.

The service’s headquarters in Brierley Hill – which serves every county in the West Midlands except for Staffordshire – is staffed by non-clinically trained health advisers and trained clinicians and receives about 2,000 calls every weekday and 4,000 on Saturdays and Sundays.

Call levels have continued to increase over the past four months, with the service receiving a record 4,535 calls on Saturday, December 28 last year.

NHS 111 director Daren Fradgley applauded the work of his staff in getting the service up and running.

“A lot of time and hard work has been put into developing 111 since WMAS stepped in and we believe the results are reflecting this,” he said.

“We faced a number of obstacles when stepping in to take on the service, none more so than the busy Christmas period, but everybody worked incredibly hard to ensure a safe and secure service was provided to the public.

“We will now continue that hard work to ensure we keep moving NHS 111 forward in order to make it the best service it can possibly be.”

The service employs 170 health advisers and between 40 and 65 clinicians at Brierley Hill, who work in ‘pods’ staffed by a clinician, a senior health adviser and six other health advisers.

Manager of the call centre in Brierley Hill Liz Parker said: “The health advisors and clinicians who take the calls deserve special mention because it is their hard work which is resulting in the impressive figures and ensuring patients are getting the best service possible.”

WMAS is working on creating an online symptom checker which patients will be able to use to get a better idea of what their problem is as well as a mobile app.