MORE than 300,000 people across the region used the NHS 111 service last month, new figures show.

And health chiefs are urging the public to continue to make use of the online and phone help available during the winter months, to help ease the strain on overstretched hospital A&E departments.

The NHS says that during October alone, around 100,000 people in the region took part in web-based 111 sessions, and 220,000 telephone calls were answered by the team.

A new Help Us Help You campaign has been launched, encouraging more people to use the service and raising awareness of the different care options on offer.

A spokesperson says: "NHS 111 can assess people and direct them to the most appropriate local service, including urgent treatment centres, GP practices and consultations with a pharmacist. And, if needed, it can arrange a call-back from a nurse, doctor or paramedic.

"It is estimated that up to two-fifths of A&E attendances are avoidable, or patients could be better treated elsewhere, with the NHS campaign highlighting different options – which not only are more convenient for patients, but can help relieve pressure on already busy hospital emergency departments.

"The 111 online service has now been fully integrated into the NHS app, which has been downloaded an incredible four million times by people registered with a GP practice in the north east and Yorkshire.

"The app offers an easy way to access NHS 111 from your smartphone. Simply log in, scroll down to ‘check your symptoms’ and then follow the instructions. It’s helpful to make sure the app is up-to-date with your details, as this will save you time when you feel unwell or worried and want to access advice. A step-by-step guide to getting started with the app is available on the NHS website."

Dr Yvette Oade, regional medical director for NHS England, says: "It is encouraging that so many people are using NHS 111 in the comfort of their own homes, often avoiding an unnecessary trip to A&E.

"The NHS is there whenever people require care. Over the winter months, when pressure on services is at its highest, anyone in need of help for a life-threatening emergency can continue to get assistance at their hospital A&E or via 999. But with millions of people in our region using NHS 111 services in the past year, it’s clear that there are safe alternatives for less severe issues."