Claire Roche, Executive Director of Quality and Nursing at the Welsh Ambulance Service

A third of people in North Wales now visit the NHS website rather than call 999 for urgent medical assistance with ailments such as back pain, falls and breathing problems.

A new study by YouGov revealed the way patients with non-life-threatening conditions utilise hospital services in the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) area has changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report also found that up to 60% of those surveyed in the region are confident enough to check for symptoms and find out information on the NHS 111 Wales website, rather than seeking advice over the phone or in person, helping to alleviate waiting times and pressure on staff.

The Welsh Government’s Help Us, Help You campaign is encouraging the public to utilise the breadth of NHS services when looking to access urgent healthcare.

Claire Roche, Executive Director of Quality and Nursing at the Welsh Ambulance Service, which hosts NHS 111 Wales, said the way people seek medical attention has changed significantly.

“The NHS 111 Wales website should be your first port of call when you’re ill or injured and are unsure what to do,” she said.

“There are more than 30 symptom checkers on the website, from back pain and breathing difficulties, diarrhoea and dental pain, to falls and flatulence.

“You’ll answer a series of questions which determine what to do next, whether that’s to self-care for your symptoms at home, visit a pharmacist, consult a GP, call 111 for a telephone assessment or in extreme cases, call 999.

“If we can help patients with a less serious illness or injury online, then we’re preventing calls to 999 which may not always be appropriate.”

Meanwhile, 36% of people in North Wales said checking for possible symptoms online would provide them with easily accessible important information to measure how serious their condition is.

In comparison, just 17% prefer to go directly to their nearest A&E, MIU or out-of-hours GP service to wait for an appointment.

The news comes after BCUHB announced it had conducted up to 11,000 virtual consultations with patients in the 12 months up to March.