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New ‘Phone First’ Service extended across Southern and Northern Trusts

Urgent and Emergency Care - phone first information.

The ‘Phone First’ service has been extended across Emergency Departments (EDs) in the Northern and Southern Health and Social Care Trust areas.

Patients, including children, who are feeling unwell or have an illness or injury which requires urgent treatment but is not life threatening are advised to ‘Phone First’ before attending EDs at Causeway, Antrim Area, Daisy Hill and Craigavon Area Hospitals. Patients are also asked to ‘Phone First’ before attending the Minor Injuries Units in South Tyrone and Mid Ulster Hospitals.

Southern Area

Craigavon Area Hospital / Daisy Hill Hospital, Newry / South Tyrone Hospital Minor Injuries Unit, Dungannon

Commences Monday 30th November 2020 at 9am.

Service operates 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday.

Phone First 0300 123 3 111

Interpreter Now app: https://interpreternow.co.uk/hscni

Phone First text relay number 18001 0300 123 3 111

Northern Area

Antrim Area Hospital / Mid Ulster Hospital Minor Injuries Unit, Magherafelt

Commences Tuesday 1st December 2020 at 10am.

(Causeway Hospital ED Phone First service commenced on 17th November)

Service operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Phone First 0300 123 1 123 Interpreter Now app: https://interpreternow.co.uk/hscni

Phone First text relay number 18001 0300 123 1 123

When you call the ‘Phone First’ service, a health care professional will clinically assess your condition or that of the person you are phoning on behalf of. They will then make arrangements for the most appropriate urgent care service for your needs. This may mean arranging an appointment at your local ED, organising rapid tests or assessment, redirecting you to your local GP, GP Out of Hours or the nearest Minor Injuries Unit, or providing advice.

For all emergencies that are life threatening always call 999 immediately. This can include: stroke, heart attack, loss of consciousness, breathing difficulties, severe bleeding or major trauma.

It is important to note that EDs will always be a safe place for patients, and if they attend an ED without ringing first, they will not be turned away.  If their condition is not life threatening they may have to wait longer or be signposted to another service.

Head of General Medical Services at the Health and Social Care Board, Dr Margaret O’Brien, explained why the roll out of the Phone First service was so important.

“With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in our community, it is more important than ever that patients who need emergency treatment aren’t asked to wait in crowded waiting rooms where they may be exposed to the virus.

“The ‘Phone First’ service aims to keep our over stretched EDs for emergencies, whilst ensuring rapid access, assessment and treatment on a 24/7 basis for patients who need urgent care,” Dr O’Brien said.

The new service was first trialled in Causeway Hospital ED earlier this month and the early results and feedback from patients has been very positive.

During the first week of the new service:

The Health Minister Robin Swann said: “I am very encouraged to see the positive outcomes from the trial of ‘Phone First’ in the Causeway ED. ‘Phone First’ will help people get the help they need quicker, avoiding unnecessary visits to EDs.  

“This is a hugely challenging time for our health service, with our frontline staff working under unprecedented pressure. ‘Phone First’ will also help us avoid overcrowding in EDs, ensuring those who need emergency treatment can get it swiftly and reducing the risk of Covid-19 transmission.”

ED Consultant from Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, Dr John Maxwell, who is co-chairing a major drive to enhance emergency and urgent care, alongside Dr O’Brien said:

“No one working in an ED wants to see overcrowded waiting rooms full of sick and injured people many of whom could be treated elsewhere in a more appropriate setting.

“That is particularly true right at this minute when everyone is so aware of the need to maintain infection control standards.

“We need public support at this extremely difficult time and I encourage patients to please ‘Phone First’ if your condition is not life threatening. But remember, if it is an emergency, if the situation is critical or life threatening then ring 999 immediately.”


In August the Minister of Health approved the establishment of an interim ‘No More Silos Network’ to produce detailed proposals for the reform of Urgent and Emergency Care,

On 16th October 2020, the Department of Health published its COVID-19 Urgent and Emergency Care Action Plan – ‘No More Silos’.  View the plan in detail on the Department’s website at: www.health-ni.gov.uk/NoMoreSilos,

The ‘No More Silos Action’ Plan sets out 10 key actions to ensure that urgent and emergency care services across primary and secondary care can be maintained and improved in an environment that is safe for patients and for staff, both now and into the future.

Five local implementation groups have also been established, made up of leaders across both primary and secondary care and service users, to design and develop plans, tailored to their communities, to implement the key actions at a local level.

‘Phone First’ is one of 10 recommendations set out in the plan.


A list of Frequently Asked Questions for the ‘Phone First; service is available on the HSCB website.