Government urged to make phone calls to NHS 24 free of charge

Conservatives in call for free NHS line as Westminster moves to introduce a non-charging service in England.

NHS 24
© STV

The Scottish Government has been urged to make calls to NHS 24 free of charge, as Westminster moves to introduce a non-charging service south of the border.

Callers are currently charged the price of a local phone call for dialling the NHS 24 advice service from a landline, with calls sometimes costing more from a mobile.

NHS Direct, the equivalent service in England, is gradually being replaced by a free 111 service.

The Scottish Government said consideration was being given to adopting the new 111 number, and it expected to make a positive announcement soon.

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 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."

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