Decision on free calls to NHS 24 pending

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CALLS to NHS 24 could be free from both mobiles and landlines, the Scottish Government has indicated, in a move aimed at making vital health advice more accessible.

A positive announcement is expected soon on whether Scotland might follow England in adopting a new 111 number.

The Scottish Government is considering adopting the ­advice line following pressure from political opponents.

At present, dialling NHS 24 costs the same as a local phone call from a landline, and sometimes more from mobiles.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “The SNP has ignored this issue for more than three years now, while the plans for an improved service have gone full steam ahead down south.

“This will be yet another area in health where patients in Scotland will be literally worse off than people elsewhere in the UK seeking vital health advice.

“Not only would this open up access to medical advice to those who may not have used it before, it could bring a number of other benefits.

“In some areas of England they have innovated very successfully, such as some GP practices allowing the 111 service to book emergency appointments with them.”

A petition has also been lodged at the Scottish Parliament asking MSPs to urge the government to make calls for NHS 24 free from mobile phones.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Consideration for the adoption of the 111 number, for access to non-emergency healthcare services in Scotland is currently under way, and we expect to make a positive announcement soon.

“It is important to ensure that decisions affecting access to NHS services are based on the best available evidence and informed by engagement with stakeholders.

“Should it be adopted, this number would replace the existing number for NHS 24 – the two key benefits for patients would be that the number is memorable and would be free to call from both a mobile phone and a landline.”