The North East Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust has bought Quicksilva’s orQestra to give staff working on its 111 service real-time access to the NHS Personal Demographics Service.

Staff were previously using batch-tracing to find NHS Numbers, but Steven Pratt, the trust’s IT services manager, said real-time access to the NHS Spine to use the PDS would enable staff to confirm patient details faster, and provide a safer service.

“Without this facility, we are unable to confirm registered GP practice,” he said. “Registered GP practice enables us to query the directory of services, as commissioners want us to do.

“For example, a patient registered with practice x may have access to service one, whereas a patient ringing from the same location but registered to practice y may have access to service two.

“On top of that, we query the new, repeat caller database, as per 111 core operational requirements. That gives us a greater chance of picking up on any previous calls made, and rule out issues that have occurred in the past.”

NHS 111 is a new triage service that is being rolled out across the country, replacing other services such as NHS Direct.

Its roll-out has been controversial, as many recent services have experienced problems with long call-back times and ambulances being sent to calls that did not require them.

However, the service established by the North East Ambulance Service has been established for some years.

The ambulance service was the second pilot site – and first major pilot site – for the NHS Pathways software that underpins many NHS 111 services, and did much of the work to prove the safety and concept of the tool.

It was a visit to the service that persauded former health secretary Andrew Lansley to announce that NHS 111 would become the national number for non-emergency access to services in 2010.

Subsequently, local areas were told to commission their own NHS 111 services, with some choosing to use ambulance services and others NHS Direct or commercial providers.

Although the Department of Health set a deadline of 1 April for NHS 111 to be live across the country, the problems with the more recent services appear to have prompted a slow-down.

NHS England said recently that it would look at the lessons that could be learned from commissioning the service, and at whether more national action was needed to support it.

The North East service is one of only two operating with real-time PDS look up. Getting access to the PDS can be difficult and time consuming, but orQestra makes the process simpler.

It is an end to end service, accredited by the NHS interoperability toolkit as a spine mini-service, and can be used by NHS organisations of all kinds to access the PDS. Quicksilva is also talking to other ‘blue light’ services about its use.

Quicksilva managing director Gaynor Hart said: “The benefits of the solution in healthcare are significant, and we believe there is potential for this solution to be used across other emergency services, NHS and social care as well.”