Publish date: 26 October 2020

We are making it easier and safer for patients to be seen in an Emergency Department (ED) or Accident and Emergency (A&E) department without waiting for long periods of time.

It is important to reduce the number of people waiting in those areas this winter because there is still a risk to patients and hospital staff of catching Covid-19.

The changes have been developed using the knowledge and expertise of hospital doctors, GPs, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, mental health specialists and 111 NHS teams in London.

Contact 111 NHS First

If you have an urgent, but not life-threatening, health problem please contact 111 before you attend our emergency department. This can be done either online (by visiting or by phone (dialling 111) 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and the service is free to use, including from all mobiles.

More doctors, nurses, pharmacists, paramedics, dental nurses and trained health advisors than ever before are available to look after Londoners as part of the service.

111 NHS will assist if emergency care is needed, such as sending an ambulance. 

While 111 NHS can currently book arrival slots directly in to our urgent treatment centre (or UTC), from the third week of November they will also be able to book arrival slots for our emergency department for patients who need them.

This means that anyone who needs urgent care which is not life-threatening will have an allocated time to attend and be treated – avoiding long waits and overcrowding in our hospitals. 

Please note that we will aim to see you as close to your allocated time as possible, but there may be a delay if other patients arrive who need to be seen as a priority.

Patients with life-threatening emergencies should continue to call 999.

Ringing 111 first will mean:

  • More patients will speak with a senior medical professional earlier and get the right treatment first time.
  • If someone needs an urgent face-to-face assessment or treatment, this can be arranged immediately, without any further delay - leading to shorter waiting times for all patients.
  • By advising people where and when to go, we can control queues in ED/A&E waiting rooms and lower the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19.

We understand that some people may still walk into ED/A&E for treatment and these patients will continue to be seen.

Patients needing emergency treatment will be seen first. Those whose conditions are not as urgent may need to wait or will be asked to return for a later. Using 111 first will ensure that you get quicker, safer care in the right environment and will help us to better control the risk of the virus spreading. 

Please be aware that our paediatric A&E department is temporarily closed due to the pandemic, and children are being diverted to the Whittington Hospital for care. For further information please visit our A&E page.

For more information about 111 NHS please visit the NHS website