HEALTH chiefs are urging residents across Cheshire who need urgent care to contact NHS 111 before going to A&E.

Ahead of the busy winter months, the 111 service can now book a time slot for attendance at an emergency department, or can support residents with access to alternative services if appropriate.

The new service has been launched to improve patient experience and prevent crowding at all three Cheshire emergency departments at Leighton, Macclesfield and the Countess hospitals.

Seif Ahmad, emergency department service lead at Leighton Hospital, said: “Nobody is going to be turned away from our emergency department but, so we can avoid a lot of people arriving at the same time, if you have an urgent – but not emergency – health issue contact NHS 111 to find out where you should be treated and when.

“If it is decided you should go to the emergency department, by giving you an appointment slot we can see and treat you more quickly and safely maintain social distancing in our waiting room to protect you from the risk of Covid-19 as well as seasonal illnesses like flu and colds.”

Callers to the free 111 number and visitors to the website will be assessed by a trained clinician, and the NHS says the system should help to maintain people's safety in the pandemic while speeding up triaging.

People with life-threatening conditions or those that need emergency attention should still call 999.

Simon Goff, chief operating officer at East Cheshire NHS Trust, added: “NHS 111 first will deliver improved outcomes for patients by helping them access the right service at the right time.

"In order to keep you safe, we must maintain social distancing and carefully manage the number of people in our emergency department at any one time.

“All patients who need a ‘blue light’ response will still receive one and no patient will be turned away if they come to an emergency department without calling 111 first.”