HUNDREDS of anxious phone calls are made on a daily basis to the NHS non-emergency telephone service, which is now run by West Midlands Ambulance Service.

Since the takeover in November, staff at the Brierley Hill NHS 111 service headquarters have answered more than 250,000 calls.

The non-clinically trained health advisers direct callers to the medical service that best suits their needs, following a computerised assessment.

One person that knows firsthand what it is like to be on the other end of the phone is Geri Murray, aged 48, from Wordsley, who called 111 last month as she was in excruciating pain following a recent hernia operation.

Prior to the operation, Mrs Murray’s bowel had burst and she said she nearly died, so was increasingly anxious about the pain she was experiencing.

She said: "I had just moved into the area from Walsall and my old doctors had taken me off the books. I was in a lot of pain and my daughter recommended that I called 111."

Mrs Murray praised health adviser Charlotte Vivash, for the way she handled the call: "I was scared but she talked my down and gave me advice about what I needed to do. She was very calm and put my mind at ease. I am so thankful to Charlotte for the time she spent with me on the phone."

Miss Vivash, aged 26, from Brierley Hill said she could remember the call vividly: "When I first took the call I could tell Geri was very worried, anxious and not sure where to turn. I went through the assessment to make sure she was medically safe and then gave her the information for a local doctor that she could register with."

The pair came face to face at an open day at the Waterfront Business Park call centre on Tuesday.

Miss Vivash said: "I am pleased to have been given the opportunity to meet her as it is rare for us to be able to make a personal connection with callers."

Visitors were told by NHS 111 director, Daren Fradgley, that since the takeover, the service had gone from strength to strength and the performance levels had been "consistently impressive".

He said: "We aim to answer calls within 60 seconds, 95 percent of the time, because if a call is abandoned, people start bouncing around the system, whereas we want to capture the patient first time, meet their needs and make sure they are directed to the right service."

Mr Fradgley said that that target had been hit in the last four months but said it was too soon to tell if the service had reduced the number of unnecessary 999 calls.

Last month, health advisers answered 63,179 calls and the average call lasted 8.37 minutes, Mr Fradgley revealed.

Out of those calls, 6,315 required an ambulance and 7.5 percent were told to visit A&E.

He added: "A lot of time and hard work has been put into developing 111 since we stepped in and we believe the results are reflecting this.

"We will now continue that hard work to ensure we keep moving it forward in order to make it the best service it can possibly be."