NHS Direct, the Government's 24-hour telephone advice line staffed
by nurses, has made great strides since it was first launched
in Spring '99.
NHS Direct always promised to be a boon for primary care teams.
Staffed by trained nurses, the 24-hour telephone helpline provides
fast, accurate health information to consumers in the comfort
of their own home.
By February 2000, NHS Direct was serving 65 per cent of England.
Wales rolled out the service in June, with full national coverage
expected by October, the same date by which there will be complete
coverage in England.
Initial feedback from the English NHS Direct scheme has been
encouraging. By the end of January 2000, it had handled more than
1.3 million calls, with more than 500,000 dealt with in December
and January alone. In December, about 60 per cent of calls were
made by women; 25 per cent were made by a parent about a child;
53 per cent of callers were ringing about themselves; 30 per cent
of calls were about a patient below the age of 17, and 14 per
cent were about patients over the age of 65. The most common symptoms
included: abdominal pains, fever, headache, sore throat, vomiting,
cold/flu symptoms, rashes, joint pains and trauma.
If conditions are self-treatable by the patient, NHS Direct
nurses advise them to use over the counter medicines. Data for
which brands are recommended is not monitored by NHS Direct -
nurses generally give a generic product name, and suggest that
the patient discusses the best product with their pharmacist.
Consumers with internet facilities (no matter where they are
in the UK) can access NHS
As well as covering health news, the site contains the Healthcare
Guide, edited by Dr lan Banks and produced by the Doctor Patient
Partnership. The Guide helps people to choose the right course
of action for common symptoms. Self-care is an important component
of the options.