THE NHS 111 helpline in Thames Valley referred more callers to A&E in December, new figures have revealed.

NHS England data shows that the 111 helpline for Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire recommended 4,521 A&E visits in December – 17.6 per cent up on the same month in 2018.

NHS 111 is a 24-hour helpline for patients who need non-urgent medical help.

The service replaced NHS Direct and some out-of-hours GP services in 2014.

Callers answer questions about their symptoms, asked by an adviser who can then use the system to refer them on to another service if needed.

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Of the calls assessed on the phone at the Thames Valley centre, 7.2 per cent ended with a referral to emergency departments.

This was down from the 7.4 per cent of calls ending with the same outcome in December 2018.

The figures were taken from the 62,600 calls received in December 2019 by the Thames Valley team.

The majority of calls, 61.2 per cent, ended with referrals to primary care like GP surgeries, pharmacies and dentists.

An ambulance was sent 11.9 per cent of the time.

Across England, more than 120,000 calls were taken in December and of those, 8.6 per cent ended with A&E.