The Northern Health and Social Care Trust has announced the trial of new ‘Phone First’ service at the Emergency Department (ED) of Causeway Hospital in Coleraine, Northern Ireland.

Designed for patients including children, the new service is being trialled across several EDs in Northern Ireland to ease pressures and prevent overcrowding.

With the new service, patients will be able to obtain direct access to the right care, avoid busy EDs and stay safe.

The dedicated service will run at the Causeway Hospital 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

Health Minister Robin Swann said: “Prior to Covid-19, there was clear evidence that our urgent and emergency care services were under increasing pressure. Unfortunately, in recent weeks we have witnessed people facing long waits to be seen in overcrowded EDs.

“The impact of Covid-19, and the focus on infection prevention and social distancing, has driven home the urgent need for change.  We need to protect our patients and staff.”

Phone First is also planned to be launched in other areas across Northern Ireland.

In the coming weeks, the service is expected to be introduced at Craigavon Area and Daisy Hill Hospitals’ EDs.

Patients who Phone First will get the appropriate service for their needs and those who are directed to attend ED will be assessed and prioritised based on their condition.

Northern Health and Social Care Board General Medical Services head Dr Margaret O’Brien said: “The ‘Phone First’ service aims to keep our EDs for emergencies, whilst ensuring rapid access, assessment and treatment on a 24/7 basis for patients who need urgent care.

“When you call the ‘Phone First’ service for Causeway Hospital ED, you will be directed to the Dalriada Urgent Care Service where you will speak to a health care professional who will clinically assess your condition or the person you are phoning on behalf of.”

Accordingly, arrangements will be made for patients to access the most appropriate service.

Causeway Hospital is managed by the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.