NHS 24 is Scotland's national telehealth and telecare organisation. This special health board runs a telephone advice and triage service that cover the out of hours period. The telephone service allows people who feel unwell or those caring for them to obtain health advice and information if it is not convenient or possible to wait until they can visit their general practictioner when the practice is next open. The advice line is not intended as a substitute for obtaining an emergency ambulance service via 999. The telehealth services provided by NHS Scotland fulfil some similar functions to NHS Direct Wales and the NHS 111 scheme in England.
The service can be used in more than one way:
This enables advice to be obtained without a consultation by answering a series of questions after accessing the main http://www.nhs24.com/ web page and selecting the NHS Self-help guide option. Users will be given one of three final results :Self-Care, if it is safe to manage the problem at home
Call NHS 24, if it is necessary to speak to a member of NHS 24 staff for further advice
Dial 999, if the problem requires the use of an ambulance service
Since 2005 the NHS 24 Internet service has included access to information from a NHS Health Encyclopaedia, giving information on illnesses, conditions, tests and treatment and to pharmacy opening times throughout Scotland. The information that is made available via this internet service is used under licence from the UK Department of Health.
111 is the current, normal telephone number for most callers who are able to use a telephone without difficulty. This number is free to call from mobile phones as well as landlines, and was adopted across Scotland in April 2014 to replace the old number, 08454 24 24 24 which is being phased out.
A translation service is provided for a number of languages for which leaflets are issued which instruct callers to tell the NHS 24 staff :"I am [nationality described in English], I do not speak English."
18001 08454 24 24 24
This number is used for callers who have to use a Textphone.
At the end of the consultation, NHS 24 will contact the Scottish Ambulance Service if necessary.
Instructions for use of the service by people who do not speak English are available on the website or in paper form by calling 0141 435 3901.
NHS 24 is a Special Health Board which was established on 6 April 2001 under the NHS 24 (Scotland) Order 2001, although the overall aims for Health Boards are defined by the NHS (Scotland) Act 1978 and subsequent legislation.
The service launched in 2002, with the first contact centre in Aberdeen using around 60 nurse to provide advice to callers from the Grampian area, before the service was rolled out to other areas in the North of Scotland.
The algorithms used by the NHS24 call handlers in 2004 were purchased under licence from an American company but these weren’t divulged to other clinicians working in the health service due to clauses in the commercial agreement.
A new call handing and IT computer system, called the "Future Programme" was expected in 2013 but has experienced significant delays. With a current cost of £117 million, the new system crashed on 28 October 2015 shortly after it was launched. It was shut down on 13 November, but it is expected that NHS24 will relaunch the system in 2016.
A management board has responsibility for the running of the organisation.