The health service in England has launched a new NHS 111 online tool to help those wanting to get quick advice about the new coronavirus after it saw a surge in the number of queries received about the outbreak.
Since its launch last Wednesday, more than 70,000 people have reportedly turned to the service to find out more information and get help, with over 35,000 accessing it in one day over the weekend.
In addition to the new tool, the NHS said that it was also “ploughing in” an extra £1.7 million to NHS 111 so that more people can receive advice over the phone.
Investment will increase if demand continues to go up, it was added.
“NHS staff are working round the clock to respond to the coronavirus outbreak,” said Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director. “We know that 111 call volumes have been high and people have understandably turned to the service for help, support and advice.”
WHY IT MATTERS
As of the morning of 3 March, based on the latest situation report from the World Health Organization, there were nearly 91,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally.
The total number of deaths in some of the worst-hit countries went up to 79 and 92 in Italy and Iran, respectively.
Meanwhile, the first case of coronavirus at the European Union offices was announced today. According to an email seen by EURACTIV, one of the European Defence Agency’s staff members that had recently returned from a trip to Italy tested positive for COVID-19.
In the UK, with 51 confirmed cases as of yesterday morning, health secretary Matt Hancock warned that “widespread transmission” was becoming more likely.
THE LARGER PICTURE
The NHS recently introduced 'drive-through' testing in the capital, with a service provided by Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust in the west that can be accessed through a referral from NHS 111.
“We’ve set up the ‘drive through’ service to make sure people in our community can get safe, convenient and quick checks for coronavirus, as part of NHS efforts to keep everyone safe,” said Dr Joanne Medhurst, medical director at the trust.
“It’s crucial that, as a community service, we help residents in our area to get accurate, timely advice while managing extra pressure on the NHS, and so far this week we’ve had good feedback from people that the swabbing service offers reassurance at what can be a difficult time.”
ON THE RECORD
As the coronavirus spreads, many organisations, such as Sheba Medical Center in Israel, have turned to the use of telehealth to help patients.
Today, the BBC reported that hospitals in England were also asked to carry out more video consultations.
“Digital presents an important opportunity – stopping the spread of disease whilst increasing NHS capacity, ensuring the NHS can continue to deliver high quality primary care to patients across the UK,” said Juliet Bauer, former NHS England chief digital officer and UK managing director of LIVI, known as KRY in the Nordics.
“With six million – one in five UK employees – likely to be affected during the worst of the outbreak, video consultations give worried patients immediate access to GP advice and support, safe from spreading or catching infection.”