Objective To compare outcome of clinical advice given by emergency physicians (EPs) versus non-physician clinical advisors (NPCAs) on a UK National Health Service 111 centre.
Method This was a prospective study conducted between July 2016 and February 2017. We targeted calls in which call handlers using standard NHS 111 clinical decision support software would have advised the caller to attend a hospital ED. These calls were passed to a clinical assessment service (CAS) and reviewed by either an EP (July to November 2016) or an NPCA (December 2016 to February 2017).
Results During the preintervention year, 80.2% of callers were advised to attend the ED within 1 or 4 hours, 1.2% were referred to out of hours (OOH) primary care and 0.3% to self-care. During the study, call handlers designated 2606 calls as needing to attend the ED in 1 or 4 hours and passed these on to the clinical advisors. There was a reduction of 75%–81% in cases advised to attend the ED in both intervention groups; EPs advised 396 of 1558 callers (25.4%) to attend ED; NPCAs advised 194 of 1048 callers (18.5%) to attend ED. For calls not requiring the ED, EPs recommended self/home care management in 38.1% of these calls, NPCAs recommended self-care for 15.7% (difference=22.4%; 95% CI 19.0% to 25.7%). EPs recommended 4.5% to attend OOH primary care, while NPCAs recommended OOH primary care for 42.1% (difference=37.6%, 95% CI 34.3% to 40.8%).
Conclusions A CAS within NHS 111 using clinicians decreases referrals to the ED. EPs use fewer services and resources. Further work needs to be undertaken to determine the workforce skill mix for an NHS 111 CAS.
- clinical assessment, effectiveness
- admission avoidance
- emergency care systems, advanced practitioner
- urgent care
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Contributors BS was responsible for study design, drafting and revision of the manuscript. HC provided baseline data and helped predict workload numbers from existing call volumes. JW provided the statistical analysis. SF provided primary care overview. AC was jointly responsible for the successful UECN bid for North East of England. All contributors were part of the study project board.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Ethics approval Ethical approval for the study was applied for and not required as although the study involves patients, the research question and activity relate to NHS staff.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Patient consent for publication Not required.