NHS County Durham and Darlington has launched a new urgent care phone service.

Patients who need urgent medical attention when their GP surgery is shut or when a 999 emergency call is not appropriate, can now call 111 instead.

The trust is hoping the new service will save money, as well as ease the pressure on ambulance and A&E services.

The scheme will be extended later this year when it will be rolled out across Nottingham City, Lincolnshire and Luton.

Professor Stephen Singleton, medical director of NHS North East said: “The introduction of the NHS 111 service in County Durham and Darlington is an important part of our regional vision to improve access to urgent healthcare for local people.

“By better understanding what people really need from different local services, 111 will enable the commissioning of more effective and productive healthcare.

“Most importantly it will help improve efficiency across the whole healthcare system by reducing unnecessary waste and making sure people get access to the right service, first time.”