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Free NHS 24 line forecast to cause surge in demand

HEALTH advice phone line NHS 24 faces a massive increase in callers when a new free number is launched next year.

HELPLINE: While free calls to NHS 24 have been welcomed, it will put additional pressure on the service due to a rise in the number of users.
HELPLINE: While free calls to NHS 24 have been welcomed, it will put additional pressure on the service due to a rise in the number of users.

Health Secretary Alex Neil revealed that the number of people ringing the service for medical advice is projected to increase by 10% to 15%.

This could mean more than 200,000 extra calls to the service, which has struggled to cope with demand in the past.

When the helpline took over answering calls to GP surgeries at evenings and weekends shortly after its launch in 2004 it stumbled into crisis.

Patients waited hours for nurses to ring them back with advice and GPs had to step in to deal with the queues.

Mr Neil branded the remarks – made by the BBC's health correspondent – as factually untrue while on BBC Scotland's Good Morning Scotland radio show.

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