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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.

NHS Direct Rates of Referral.
Approximate proportion of patients advised to different dispositions
999 2%
A&E 8%
GP Immediate 20%
GP routine 20%
Other professional advice 10%
Self-care 33%
Other (health information, community nurse, etc.) 7%

Consumers with internet facilities (no matter where they are in the UK) can access NHS Direct Online. 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.

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Copyright PAGB (Proprietary Association of Great Britain) - 2003 - All Rights Reserved. PAGB has made every effort to ensure the information contained in this site is as accurate and up to date as possible. However you should always read the label before you take a medicine for the first time as it is important that medicines are used correctly and according to the instructions. All OTC medicines are effective and safe when used properly. None of the information given in this directory should be construed to be advice or recommendation of a particular medicine. PAGB cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions.