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Phone service taking pressure off GP surgeries, survey shows

13 June 2008

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A survey of people who use the NHS Direct telephone service has shown that 40% of callers are advised to look after themselves at home.

NHS Direct said the findings proved the service took pressure off GP surgeries and A&Es after the poll of more than 4,500 people showed that many were given telephone advice.

The figures revealed that 11% were referred to A&E, 28% to a GP (10% of those for urgent appointments), 5% to walk-in centres, 4% to a dentist and 3% to a pharmacist. Almost three-quarters (73%) of callers said they would have gone to A&E or their GP if they had not been able to call NHS Direct.

Doctors and ambulance crews last year accused NHS Direct of referring too many patients to GPs and emergency services. They said urgent referrals were given to patients with only minor problems like sprains and high temperatures.

The chairman of NHS Alliance said further improvements could be made to the service but NHS Direct may be proving itself cost effective.

“NHS Direct is a valuable service that patients appreciate,” Dr Michael Dixon said. “It is good to see it is now achieving more of what it set out to do – relieving pressure on GP surgeries and A&E.”

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