NHS Pathways (hosted by NHS Digital) is not a service or an organisation and there is no compulsion for local commissioners to use it. It is a clinical assessment tool, that has been designed by NHS clinicians to provide consistency in triage at all telephone entry points to the NHS including 999, 111, out of hours etc.
For any given symptom, the system will aim to exclude possible causes of the symptom in order of likelihood and clinical urgency. Where the information given does not allow a particular cause to be excluded then the level of care and the time frame within which it should be delivered are determined. The clinical questioning within the system and the levels of care referred to is governed entirely by a National Clinical Governance Group, chaired by the RCGP and made up of representatives from the BMA, all medical Royal Colleges and other professional bodies.
In addition to the above the clinical assessment identifies the specific clinical skills needed for definitive care of an individual. This data is used to search the integrated directory of services to find a local service that has the skills needed and which is open in the time-frame required.
To do this, the directory holds carefully structured information on the specific clinical skills offered by individual local services. As a side benefit the system will be able to produce data on:
- demand for individual clinical skills
- by post code
- and by time of day
This could be useful for local commissioners in helping patterns of usage, gaps in services and, perhaps, areas where there is duplication of services.