NHS Direct is the name of a 24 hour, confidential telephone, online and interactive digital TV health advice and information service provided by the National Health Service in England and Wales. The service is provided by the NHS Direct Trust. NHS Direct was rolled out across England and Wales between 1998 and 2000. A similar service was introduced in Scotland by the Scottish Executive Health Department (where it is called NHS24) in 2004. NHS Direct does not replace the British emergency service phone numbers 999 and 112.
Methods of Contact
0845 46 47 (England and Wales).
The NHS Direct contact telephone number is 0845 4647 in England and Wales. The telephone service aims to triage symptomatic callers to provide guidance on which healthcare provider the caller should access. Nurses also give advice on how to manage an episode of illness at home. Health Information Advisors can provide information on a wide range of medical conditions, treatments, medicines and NHS services and can provide guidance on NHS policy and procedures. In some areas of England and Wales, NHS Direct is commissioned by local Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) to provide the gateway for out-of-hours access to GP's surgeries and clinics, and also to emergency and routine NHS dentistry.
On calling the telephone service, a call handler will take the caller's details and will then establish the reason for calling. Calls are forwarded to a Nurse or a Health Information Advisor as appropriate. Health Information Advisors endeavour to return all calls within three hours. Nurse Advisors will return non-urgent calls as soon as possible but, at busy times, the call-backs can take several hours; it is not uncommon at weekends for a call-back to take six hours.
The Internet and Interactive TV
The website, Freeview and Sky Digital (UK & Ireland) interactive text systems provide a self-help guide and also a comprehensive health encyclopaedia. There is also an online enquiry service, which is similar to the telephone-based health information service, where visitors to the site can request information via email.