A new NHS 24 call centre has opened in Dundee to help more patients in non-life-threatening cases and ease the pressure on hospital departments.
Patients with relatively minor injuries and illnesses are asked to call the NHS 24 service on 111 before attending hospital as part of the Scottish Government’s redesign of urgent care, with A&E departments struggling.
The round-the-clock helpline received approximately 182,000 calls during December, with almost 50,000 over the Hogmanay weekend alone.
The latest expansion of the service will see about 140 staff recruited by the end of March, including call handlers, nurses, psychological mental health practitioners and mental health nurses.
Visiting the new centre, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “We are experiencing the toughest winter our health and social care system has ever faced.
“With the current system pressures, and the ongoing impact of the pandemic, the role of NHS 24 in giving support and advice to people who need it has never been more vital.
“I am extremely grateful for the contribution that NHS 24 staff have made during the pandemic and, particularly, during these difficult winter months.
“I would urge everyone to make use of these services, by calling 111 or visiting NHS Inform when needed. Highly trained staff will be happy to give advice and direct you to the best place if you need treatment.
“This new call centre facility in Dundee will allow NHS 24 to further expand their capacity – helping more people and better managing capacity throughout the rest of the healthcare system.
“To help make this possible, the Scottish Government has invested more than £20 million additional funding for NHS 24 this year for extra recruitment, and this new facility. All of this builds on the work undertaken as part of our £300 million investment in health and care services as part of our winter preparations.”
NHS 24 chief executive, Jim Miller, added: “NHS 24 has played a crucial role in Scotland’s response to the pandemic and our expansion in Dundee will ensure we are enable to continue to provide high quality, safe and effective care to public in the months and years ahead.
“Call handlers, nurses, psychological mental health practitioners and mental health nurses are already working in this key, contact centre delivering care.
“I expect it to be at full capacity by the end of March.”
Joe FitzPatrick and Shona Robison, MSPs for Dundee West and East respectively, also welcomed the call centre’s opening.
Mr FitzPatrick said: “The efforts of all our NHS staff have been nothing short of heroic over the course of the pandemic.
“NHS 24 is fielding unprecedented call numbers and I am delighted that Dundee will be home to a new call centre, which will help to alleviate pressures on the rest of the NHS and social care.
“If you need health or care advice, please call NHS 24 on 111 or visit nhsinform.scot, where you can access information that you can trust.”
Ms Robison added: “The Scottish Government is providing record funding for our NHS and continues to invest in Dundee, with these NHS 24 jobs on top of hundreds of new jobs based at Social Security Scotland’s headquarters at Dundee Waterfront.”