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111 – GP out of Hours

A Strategic Framework for improving the GP Out-of-Hours service.

Project Description

This Project will re-procure the telephony services required so that the NHS 111 number is capable of operating on the required infrastructure to support all four UK countries, including the ability to access the National Pandemic Flu Telephone service should the demand arise.


GP Out-of-Hours services in Northern Ireland provide cover for urgent primary care conditions when GP surgeries are closed. The Strategic Framework now in place for improving the GP Out-of-Hours service outlines three key areas namely:

  • Simplifying access to GP Out-of-Hours,
  • Improving operational efficiency, and
  • Improving alignment with other healthcare services.

This might culminate in the provision of a single (NHS) telephone number (111) that operates across Northern Ireland. The 111 number is available in England and Scotland 24 hours every day to respond to people’s healthcare needs when they need medical help fast but it is not a 999 emergency.

The 111 service was piloted in 2010 in England and has been fully operational in England and Scotland in 2014/15. Wales is currently reviewing their health and care strategies with the intention to use the 111 number. Northern Ireland has yet to commit to delivering the service.

The national telephony infrastructure is required to host the 111 number.
Another element of this project is the National Pandemic Flu Service. Managed by Public Health England on behalf of all four UK countries, the National Pandemic Flu Service (NPFS) is designed to supplement the response provided by primary care if the pressures during an influenza pandemic mean that too many people need treatment or antiviral drugs.

The ability for each country to be able to opt to access the NPFS through 111 will add strategic benefits because the additional demand can be routed directly into a flu-specific service. Consequently, zones which operate the NHS 111 number would remain unaffected by duplicate calls regarding the pandemic.

Project Status

  • March 2015: A preferred supplier has been appointed to deliver the 111 service.

SIB Involvement

Provision of specialist project advisor working with the UK NHS 111 project team (representing the interests of NI DHSSPS/Health & Social Care Board).

111 GP Out of Hours