111 non-emergency NHS Wales number reaches the north
Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter
The non-emergency NHS Wales telephone service has finally been rolled out in the north, the health minister has confirmed.
The free-to-call 111 service combines the NHS Direct Wales advice line for non-999 health calls with the out-of-hours GPs and the Welsh Ambulance Service.
While 999 should always be used in emergency situations, the service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing health information, advice and access to urgent out-of-hours primary care.
It allows GPs, pharmacists and nurses and call-handlers to arrange appointments, prescriptions, advice and home visits.
Until now, those living in the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board area had to pay for calls to the NHS Direct Wales line for non-emergency medical advice.
The delay had prompted concerns in the region, with the full service having only previously been available in the Hywel Dda, Powys, Aneurin Bevan and Swansea Bay – including Bridgend – health board areas.
Anglesey county councillor, Trefor Lloyd Hughes, said he had received complaints from constituents over the slow roll-out.
But welcoming this latest announcement, he told the Local Democracy Reporting Servic: “It’s disappointing that we’ve had to wait so long in the north when it’s been in operation in other parts of Wales for up to five years.
“It was very confusing when the service was being advertised but not in operation here, but it’s good to know that at least it’s finally here now.”
With the service now operational since Tuesday, June 22, it now covers all health board areas of Wales except Cardiff and Vale, which is expected to come online later this financial year.
Last year, ministers said that a full 111 service wasn’t expected in the north until early 2022.
Health minister Eluned Morgan said: “I am delighted the free 111 number will now be available across North Wales and the whole of Wales will be covered by April 2022.
“The 111 service will support people to receive the most appropriate services for their needs, and reduce the pressure on our 999 service.
“When the NHS is experiencing high demand the service is particularly useful in ensuring people are directed to the most appropriate services.
“Supported by the 111 website, this easy to remember free phone service will make it easier for anyone to access the support they need.”