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Starting soon

The NHS provides a telephone service - called NHS 111 - to help people who need advice or care when their general practice is shut. An online (Web-based) version of NHS 111 which allows patients to get medical help or advice using their smartphone or a computer has been introduced across England. Our study will evaluate this service.

NHS 111 currently receives over 15 million calls each year. Demand for GP and emergency care NIHR services is increasing and sometimes people don't use the most appropriate services for the health problems they have. Providing NHS 111 Online could help people to use the right services, and may provide advice that helps them do more self-care. However some research suggests that online systems can increase demand for other health services, and we know that not everyone finds online services easy to use.

We want to look at the impact of NHS 111 Online. We will look at the care pathways people follow after they use the online service and see if some people are less able to use this online system. We will also look at the work and staff needed to provide NHS 111 Online and we will compare our findings about the workforce to data from a similar system used in Australia to see how our service compares with theirs. We will also look at anonymised Twitter data to see what people are saying about NHS 111 services.

Because NHS 111 Online is being rolled out across England we cannot do an experiment to test how it works, so we will do detailed research (called case studies) in 8 settings. We will ask people (using interviews and surveys), and observe what patients and staff do, to understand the online service. We will visit the chosen settings and talk to staff and managers about the work. We will use surveys to ask patients and potential patients about how easy the online system is to use and what they think about the system.

We will write about our research to help the NHS make decisions about future services and we will feedback our findings during the project. Because the project is about an online service, we will also social media such as Twitter and our own Web site to make sure that as many people as possible know about the project. We will have a patient and public group to advise us and make sure we communicate our findings in ways that can be easily understood.

The study is lead by Professor Catherine Pope at NDPCHS, with colleagues Joanne Turnbull and Jane Prichard at the University of Southampton. The study is funded by NIHR Health Services and Delivery Research Programme – grant number 127590.