Starting this week, patients in Droitwich who don’t have serious or life-threatening medical need will be given  an appointment time at A&E – or risk a longer wait.

Hospitals in Worcestershire, including the Alexandra in Redditch and Worcestershire Royal, are among the first to implement a new national programme called NHS 111 First.

Under this new system, the public will be asked to contact NHS 111 before attending A&E if they have an urgent – but not serious or life-threatening - medical need.

They will then be directed to the right service for them. This could be an appointment with a GP or dentist, or – for the first time - a timeslot at an A&E department.

Arrangements will not change for people with serious or life-threatening illnesses or injuries – they will still be advised to dial 999 as before. Nobody that attends A&E without having contacted NHS 111 beforehand will be turned away, but those not requiring immediate treatment may have to wait longer to be seen.

NHS 111 is already able to refer and book people into a number of services, such as GP services. But from October, this will also include emergency departments and Minor Injury Units.

Care Navigators will be in A&E departments to help people use NHS 111 while they wait. As a result, people may be directed elsewhere where they could be treated sooner.

By introducing this new system, health bosses hope patients will get to speak with a senior clinician earlier and control crowding to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

Redditch MP Rachel Maclean said: “We’re all too aware of the performances of our county’s A&Es, particularly at the Worcestershire Royal. Therefore, any attempt to reduce waiting times and to improve patient care will always be welcomed by me.

“It’s important to stress that in an emergency or life-threatening situation people should continue to call 999. This has not changed.

“However, for people with an urgent medical need that is not serious or life-threatening, this new system will triage people to the right treatment. This could be their GP, minor injuries or A&E. This will enable emergency departments to know that people are coming, ensuring patients get the treatment they need more quickly.

“Through my Alex Working Group, I will monitor the situation closely with hospital bosses to ensure this new system is having the desired effect on A&E performance and patient care. Any issues which emerge I will raise directly with the Health Secretary to ensure they are rectified.”