Medical care number trial starts in County Durham
Patients seeking urgent medical care in County Durham will be able to call a new three-digit telephone number.
Trials of the free 111 service have started in County Durham and Darlington.
The number is aimed at people who need urgent healthcare when cases are not 999 emergencies.
Trained call advisers will be able to put people directly in touch with the service they need.
The 111 number is aimed at people who need help quickly but when the situation is not life-threatening.
The advisers, who are supported by nurses, will also be able to send ambulances and paramedics in emergency cases.
The aim of the service is to relieve some of the pressure on the 999 service and accident and emergency departments.
It is also to help people receive the right support more quickly.
The service will be piloted in County Durham and Darlington and will then be evaluated.
It will run alongside NHS Direct and will be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.