New NHS 111 number could stretch Cornwall's emergency services
Cornwall's new non emergency medical phone service, NHS 111, could end up using ambulances as a default mechanism.
Dr Peter Merrin, chairman of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly local medical committee, is predicting that when the number goes live next month, there will be an increase in call-outs for ambulances to non emergencies.
He said: "Our services are already under a great deal of pressure, both primary and secondary care, and in some cases, near meltdown.
"I'm anticipating increasing numbers of ambulances at the Royal Cornwall Hospital and perhaps at Derriford as well, queuing for many hours and being unavailable for more urgent cases out in the rest of the county."
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NHS 111, a one-stop-shop number for patients with urgent but not life-threatening problems, has already been piloted in some parts of the country.
Early results prompted the British Medical Association to describe it as a "chaotic mess", putting a strain on other parts of the health service.
However, Dr Tamsyn Anderson, urgent care lead at NHS Kernow, said she did not foresee Cornwall experiencing the same problems when the service was launched towards the end of May.