A NEW Integrated Urgent Care Service will operate across Dorset from April next year.

According to the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group - which decides what services are required in the county - the service 'will make it easier for people to access urgent NHS care and advice when it is needed'.

It claims it will offer more care closer to home and in the community, reducing the numbers of people attending Accident and Emergency departments or needing hospital admission.

As well as providing more advice online and by phone through NHS 111, the Integrated Urgent Care Service will unite other services already familiar to local residents, including the night nursing service and improved access to GPs, including out-of-hours care.

And NHS 111 callers who need specific clinical support will be put through to a new Clinical Assessment Service. A trained clinician will seek to address their problem there and then, or – if that is not possible – book the patient an appointment with a relevant health professional close to home.

Dorset HealthCare will be lead provider, working with The Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals, Poole Hospital, Dorset County Hospital, South Western Ambulance Service and Dorset’s GPs.

Dorset CCG said: "The Integrated Urgent Care Service will bring together local NHS providers to ensure a seamless, efficient service for patients, building on decisions taken during the CCG’s recent Clinical Services Review."

Dorset HealthCare Medical Director Steve Tomkins said: “Patients who need more than online or telephone advice will be able to choose from settings across the county, where they will be seen by a health professional. It will also offer new openings for staff working across Dorset in unscheduled care, with the opportunity to gain even greater knowledge and skills.

“All of this will improve care for local people and help to take the pressure off our emergency services.”

A spokesman for Defend Dorset NHS - which is fighting attempts to downgrade Poole's Accident and Emergency department and its maternity services - said they would comment when they had more information about the new system.