THE head of Scotland's national healthcare improvement organisation has been appointed as interim chief executive of the beleaguered phone line NHS 24.

Angiolina Foster, the current chief executive of Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS), will take up the role from March 1 following the resignation of Ian Crichton after just six months in the job.

Mr Crichton took up the appointment at a difficult time for the service as it struggled to roll out a new IT and call-handling system, which hit multiple delays and ran more than £40 million over budget

The new technology was launched for the first time at the end of October but staff were told to use pens and paper after one hour amid concerns patient safety was at risk.

When went live again, this time for 10 days, the time it took to process patients almost doubled and the number who hung up before their call was answered rose eightfold to 8000.

Mr Crichton was appointed interim chief executive of NHS 24 at the end of August last year with a 15 per cent increase to his salary of around £134,000.

He was moved from NHS National Services Scotland which supports health boards with administrative jobs such as procurement.

At the time the Scottish Government said the recruitment process for a new head of NHS 24 was underway and the role would be advertised in early September.

It is understood he left for a job in the public sector.

Ms Foster has held the post of chief executive of HIS since April 2014, and before that was the director of health and social care integration at the Scottish Government.

She was chief executive of Communities Scotland from 2003 to 2007.

She said: "NHS 24 provides a vital service to people in Scotland every single day. I very much look forward to working with such a committed team and to helping them achieve the service improvements that the Future Programme will bring.

"My passion for the important work of Healthcare Improvement Scotland is undiminished and I know I am leaving it in very good hands until my return later this year."

Deputy chief executive of HIS, Robbie Pearson, will take on the duties of the chief executive.

Chief Nursing Officer Professor Fiona McQueen will work with John Brown, Chair of NHS Greater, Glasgow & Clyde and Jeff Ace, Chief Executive of NHS Dumfries & Galloway to form an Advice and Assurance Group to provide assurances around the implementation plan for the Future Programme.