NHS Direct is a cost effective way of managing the increasing demand on emergency services, research shows.
The Service Delivery and Organisation Programme, a section of the National Institute for Health Research, published the study following research carried out at the University of Sheffield.
Data show that 10% of 999 calls and 90% of non-urgent calls are transferred safely and effectively to an NHS Direct nurse advisor.
Costs in employing nurse advisors are offset by reductions in the use of emergency ambulances and accident and emergency treatment.
NHS Direct savings range from £8 to £102 per patient.
Mike Sadler, NHS Direct chief operating officer said: “We know that a large proportion of 999 callers do not require an ambulance, and yet do require a health service response.
“This study shows that NHS Direct can provide this response effectively, helping patients deal with their symptoms, and enabling ambulance services to do what they do best.”
He adds that he is keen to expand the number of similar schemes throughout the UK.