In the New NHS White Paper, which promoted the vision of "easier and faster information for people about health, illness and the NHS, so that they are better able to care for themselves and their families", the Government announced its commitment to NHS Direct, a new 24 hour telephone advice line, staffed by nurses, which will cover the whole country by 2000.
Why is it needed?
Worrying health problems and questions can crop up at any time. Minor cuts or burns, a distressed baby where there is no obvious cause, a headache that won't go away...... In many of these circumstances, people probably don't need to call out a doctor, or go to the accident and emergency department, or make a 999 emergency call, but people may still feel the need for advice from someone who is qualified and experienced. That's why the NHS has set up a 24 hour confidential Helpline - NHS Direct.
What will it do?
Staffed by nurses and trained operators, NHS Direct will give people immediate information and friendly advice on what to do and what not to do, at any time of the day or night. Of course, where NHS Direct staff think that there is serious cause for concern, they will advise people on what to do or connect the caller directly to 999 if they need an ambulance. Details of other relevant health information services, local late night pharmacists and out of hours dentists will also be provided as needed.
When will it be available?
At the present time this service is being piloted in three locations:
- in Preston, Chorley and South Ribble (service provided by the Lancashire Ambulance Service NHS Trust);
- in Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland (service provided by the Northumbria Ambulance Service NHS Trust);
NHS Direct services are not currently available in other areas of the country. Further pilots will be established by the end of the year - revisit this site for regular updated information
- in Milton Keynes (service provided by the Two Shires Ambulance Service)