A NEW five-year contract to provide Sussex’s NHS 111 non-emergency telephone service has been awarded to the ambulance service.

South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb) will be the lead provider, working in partnership with healthcare company Integrated Care 24 (IC24).

The contract, worth £18.1 million in 2020/21 and due to start in April, includes being able to issue prescriptions.

Patients will also have access to a wider range of health care professionals such as GPs, paramedics, nurses and pharmacists, who will be able to directly book people into urgent care appointments if needed.

Health groups across Sussex, Kent and Medway have worked together to commission a 111 service that “meets patients’ needs on their first call, including a consultation with a doctor or nurse where it is needed”.

Victoria Beattie, NHS 111 clinical lead for Sussex, said: “NHS 111 will be pivotal in ensuring patients get access to the right care, at the right time and place for their symptoms.

“The new clinical assessment service will mean patients can talk to a doctor or health care professional sooner, giving patients real confidence in the care they will receive.”

The contract award follows a six-month procurement process undertaken on behalf of the 15 Clinical Commissioning Groups across Sussex, Kent and Medway.

The NHS said Secamb and IC24 are working together to provide an enhanced NHS 111 and a service that is more integrated with 999 and existing out-of-hours care.

They want to support both emergency and urgent primary care.

Meanwhile both organisations will be developing their workforces and offering roles which span both emergency and urgent care services.

Fionna Moore, Secamb’s acting chief executive, said: “The relationship between 999 and NHS 111 is crucial and the first point of contact for hundreds of thousands of patients across our region each year.

“I am delighted that SECAmb and IC24 have successfully bid to provide this enhanced service to people across the region. I would like to thank everyone involved in achieving this and look forward to seeing the expected benefits of this partnership realised.”

The public should continue to call 999 for life-threatening emergencies that require an immediate response.

However if a call to NHS 111 is assessed as being a medical emergency, the service can dispatch an ambulance directly and provide first aid advice to the caller until ambulance clinicians arrive, without the need to transfer the call, or for the caller to repeat information.