The Government has set out its aspirations for the future of NHS Direct, which goes national this week to cover all of England’s population.Among the plans for its workload are – the handling of category C ambulance calls, working with GPs to pilot NHS Direct centres which offer more detailed assessments, and further integration into the NHS range of out of hours care.
The nurse led 24-hour telephone advice line was established less than three years ago and is now the largest telephone-based healthcare provider in the world.
Now that it is available nationally, calls are expected to rise from 60,000 a week, to 100,000 by the end of the year.
The website that accompanies the hotline enables people to access healthcare advice in their homes. And now those without their own computer can get access through new NHS Direct information kiosks being located in public places such as supermarkets, pharmacies, walk-in centres and A&E departments. The website receives five million hits per month, and is now among the UK’s most popular.
Despite the increased workload projected for NHS Direct, the Government has always maintained its job is to ease the workload on other parts of the service, and not to replace it. Around half the calls made to NHS Direct end in advice to re-direct the medical query to a point more appropriate than a telephone helpline.