NHS 24 hits 20 million call mark

NHS 24 has expanded its clinical expertise to include pharmacists and physiotherapists. Pic: Ian Georgeson.
NHS 24 has expanded its clinical expertise to include pharmacists and physiotherapists. Pic: Ian Georgeson.

NHS 24 has taken more than 20 million calls from the public since it opened in 2002.

The figures were revealed as the service marks its 15th anniversary.

New statistics also show 2009/10 as being the busiest year when the service received more than 1.5 million calls. This was the year that the H1N1 swine flu virus affected the population and NHS 24 was asked to quickly establish a Scottish Flu Response Centre.

The busiest month was December 2004, when NHS 24 took more than 170,000 calls.

And the busiest recorded day was on December 27, 2004, when the service took more than 17,500 calls – an average of 12 calls answered per minute.

Today, NHS 24 has a much broader range of telehealth, telecare and digital information services. The service takes around 1.5m calls per year with peak demand at weekends, when it answers an average of 14,500 calls.

Professor George Crooks, NHS 24’s medical director, said: “Since we took our first call on May 8 at 10.19am at Riverside Contact Centre in Aberdeen, NHS 24 has continued to grow and develop.

“As well as being a single point of contact for the people of Scotland when their GP surgery is closed, we also provide a range of services online that are designed to help people get the information and advice they need if they fall ill during the out of hours period. This quality assured health information includes the newly updated self-help guides on www.nhsinform.scot

“Across our developing digital services, we deal with nearly three million interactions each year.

“The range of services provided by NHS 24 are now available across a growing variety of channels such as telephone, webchat, email, social media and SMS, supporting people to self-manage and keep well at home.

“We’ve also expanded the clinical expertise that we have at NHS 24 to include pharmacists and physiotherapists. And of course the role of the local community pharmacy has changed significantly in the last 15 years so they can offer help and advice about a range of minor ailments.

“As we celebrate our achievements in this landmark year, it is clear that our success is down to all the hard work and commitment shown by staff, from our highly skilled call handlers who are often the first point of contact for people calling the service, to nurses providing general, mental health and dental care. We also have advisors in Breathing Space providing support to the public through our listening service and health information advisors offering a range of help to people every day.”

He added: “Without their dedication we wouldn’t be where we are today. We have more than 120 people across the country who have been with us since that first year and we look forward to continuing to develop our services as we move ahead into the next 15 years.”