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Scottish NHS 111 goes live but is ‘complete contrast’ to English version

The Scottish NHS 111 service, launched yesterday, is the ‘complete contrast’ to the English version, the Scottish health minister has said.

As of yesterday, Scottish patients needing the telephone advice and out-of-hours gateway service NHS 24 will be able to use the three-digit phone number that was already introduced in England last year. However, in Scotland only the telephone number has changed while the service remains to be run as NHS 24, a nurse-led service which is publicly run.

Commenting on the launch, Scottish health minister Alex Neil stressed that the Scottish and English services were ‘in complete contrast’ with one another.

He said: ‘By introducing the 111 number we are removing any barrier for the public to access the health advice out of hours. This will help to ensure people have access to health information and support, including access to a GP, when they really need it.’

‘In Scotland, the 111 number will be run by NHS 24 as a public service, in public hands – serving the needs of patients. This is in complete contrast to the approach adopted by the NHS in England, where different organisations, including private sector providers, are contracted to provide the number in different regions.’

NHS 24 receives 1.5 million calls a year, and allows the public to speak to a nurse or other health professionals to receive advice on non-emergency health concerns.

GPC Scotland’s deputy chair Andrew Buist said: ‘Patients will no longer have to worry about the cost of a phonecall when seeking urgent health advice.’

The English NHS 111 service, introduced in March last year, had a troubled start, with some out-of-hours services having to step in to take back triage services and criticism of the use of lay call handlers. Last month, Pulse revealed that NHS England will start piloting having GPs working in the call centres.