Portsmouth hospital first to trial booked A&E appointments
A hospital has become the first in England to trial booked A&E appointments.
The pilot at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth sees NHS 111 call handlers book patients, who have been advised to go to A&E but are not in a medical emergency, a time slot.
Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust said it would help reduce the risk of Covid-19 spreading in the waiting room and waiting times.
It will also be trialled in London.
The pilot was launched this week and the trust said the emergency department remained open at all times.
It said patients who arrived without contacting NHS 111 would still receive treatment as usual if they needed it.
NHS England national medical director Prof Stephen Powis said it was "even more important" waiting rooms do not become crowded during the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at the Health and Social Care Committee on Tuesday, he said: "We are piloting various forms of that 'call first' in London, Portsmouth and in other areas too, because we want to make sure we get the model right.
"In general we want to move - as we did want to before Covid - increasingly to a 111 first model, which ensures we do everything we can to give appropriate advice to signpost people to the most appropriate place for treatment."
He said analysis had shown during the epidemic people with minor illnesses that could be treated in a different setting "were not attending A&E to the same extent".
NHS England chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard told the committee: "We're not at the moment envisaging that the '111 first' model will be the only way you can get to A&E."
Discussions are currently ongoing over which hospital in London will pilot the system, NHS England said.