Published: 27/05/2004, Volume II4, No. 5907 Page 7

A single telephone number for all emergency health services in London is being considered by a group looking at patient access to urgent health provision in the capital.

Although the 999 number would be retained, the review, with input from all groups representing key services, will consider whether a single telephone number would improve emergency healthcare in London.

London Ambulance Service trust chair Sigurd Reinton said the review would be the first time a comprehensive examination of all patient services had been carried out in the capital.

'It will be the first time that all the major players are gathered around the same table, ' Mr Reinton said. 'It is a joint effort by all concerned and we have representatives of GPs' out-of-hours cover, NHS Direct and the ambulance service.'

South West London strategic health authority is sponsoring the project and Pippa Bagnall has been appointed project manager, seconded from the Department of Health where she was responsible for out-ofhours cover.

A South West London SHA spokesperson declined to give further details of the review, but it is expected to draw up a report by September, with possible pilot schemes beginning late this year or early next year.

Department of Health adviser Dr Matthew Cooke said the growth of emergency care networks had led to a greater focus on access to emergency care and a review of patient access to services.

'There could be enormous savings to be made across the NHS through this sort of initiative, as there is a certain amount of duplication in terms of emergency services, ' said Dr Cooke. 'Any successful schemes introduced in London could be a model for the rest of the country.'

'Some ambulance services are currently looking at how to direct callers to other services if they do not need an ambulance, and we need to look at how we can filter patients more effectively through the system.'