People in Hertfordshire are among the most likely to call the NHS 111 service – with more than 31,000 people calling every month.

The ‘free-to-call’ service offers advice to those residents who have an urgent medical problem, but do not know what to do.

And figures reported to Hertfordshire County Council’s health scrutiny committee on Tuesday (January 14) show an average of 31,700 of the county’s residents now call the service every month.

The service allows callers to share their symptoms with trained operators or health professionals, who can give them medical advice or – where necessary – direct them to the right service.

Typically, according to the data, 11,500 callers a month will be directed to ‘out of hours’ services, 5,600 to an urgent treatment centre and 4,200 called with further advice.

Home visits will be arranged for around 1,500 callers and around 7.5 per cent – that’s around just 2,377 – will need to be seen at an accident and emergency department.

The insight into the service was delivered to the committee by David Archer, who is chief executive officer of Herts Urgent Care, which operates the service in Hertfordshire.

According to the data presented to the committee, calls to the service in Hertfordshire are answered within 33 seconds – two seconds quicker than the national average.

Callers are triaged in around 14.35 minutes – well within the national 60 minute target.

And, when  necessary, home visits are made within 4.2 hours – which is within the national target of six hours.

Operators can also now directly book appointments for patients at GP practices or at extended access hubs.

Councillors were told the most common reason for calling the service was for advice relating to abdominal pain – followed by dental problems.

Most of the calls to the service, it was reported, are at the weekend. On weekdays the busiest time is between 6pm and 8pm.

Following the meeting committee chair Cllr Seamus Quilty (Conservative) praised the “outstanding” service.

And he pointed to its success and its role in reducing the pressure on other health services in the county.

“I was very pleased with the results that the integrated urgent care provided, in relation to the 111 service – which is working extremely well in Hertfordshire,” he said.

“More than 30,000 people are ringing the service each month. That’s thousands of people that aren’t turning up and A&E and doctors’ surgeries and other areas that they could go to.”

Nevertheless Cllr Quilty stresses that in an emergency residents should always call 999.

The ‘not-for-profit’ Herts Urgent Care was set up in 2007, with the aim of providing high quality services to Hertfordshire residents.

It provides the ‘Integrated Urgent Care’ service, which – in addition to the 111 service – operates the clinical assessment service, which ‘validates’ A&E referrals and some ambulance calls; and the ‘out of hours’ service, which includes a system of telephone triage, home visiting and primary care centres; and a service to undertake home visits on behalf of local GP practices through the day.