Massive surge in calls to Dorset's NHS 111 service during lockdown

Massive surge in calls to Dorset's NHS 111 service during lockdown

Published by Maria Greenwood at 11:44am 5th May 2020.

Call handlers for Dorset's NHS 111 service answered 10,000 calls a week during March.

That was a 62% rise on the previous month. 

The clinical advice and support given has reduced the need for people to attend treatment centres, relieving pressure on the NHS and limiting the spread of coronavirus locally.

The service has been operated by the South Western Ambulance Service Foundation Trust (SWASFT) but its staff – around 260 people, mostly based at St Leonards, near Ringwood ­­– have now transferred to Dorset HealthCare.

It will allow the ambulance service to focus on 999 emergencies.

Medical Hospital

NHS 111 is now a key part of the county's Integrated Urgent Care Service which is run by Dorset HealthCare in partnership with other local NHS Trusts and GPs.

It joins up with out of hours primary care and community night nursing services to help patients access advice and treatment swiftly.

Trust Chief Executive Eugine Yafele promised patients would continue to see a high quality service:

"The service has performed particularly well during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

"Dedicated staff have worked additional hours to meet the enormous increase in calls to NHS 111 and to cover their colleagues in self-isolation.  

"With good IT support, clinicians and GPs have been able to work from home to provide advice and care over the phone, reducing the need for people to attend treatment centres and risk exposure to the virus."


Many people who call 111 speak directly to nurses, doctors, pharmacists and paramedics, though often well-trained call advisors can give patients the advice they need – reducing demand on GPs, emergency departments and treatment centres.

Staff can also make arrangements for patients to be seen where necessary, as well as send an ambulance if someone’s condition is serious or life-threatening.