A poll published recently has revealed that nearly 40% of the callers to NHS Direct are offered medical advice over the telephone such that they can take care of themselves at home.
Of the estimated 4,554 who took part in the survey, most of them received advice over the telephone - 11 % were referred to meet A&E, 28 per cent were asked to see a general practitioner, 4% were advised to see a dentist, 3 percent were advised to see a pharmacist, while 5 per cent were asked to seek the help available at walk-in centers.
Nearly 75% of the callers confessed that in the absence of not contacting NHS Direct, they would have been left with no choice but to contact the A&E or their GP. The details revealed by the study suggest that the services of NHS Direct have eased the pressure on General Practitioners and A&E.
It was only in last June that NHS Direct faced accusation by doctors and ambulance crews of referring excessive patients to GPs and emergency services. Even patients suffering minor problems for example, sprain and high fever were given urgent referrals.
As the NHS grapples with an overload of unimportant cases, it is a curse for those really in need of emergency care.
Dr Michael Dixon, a GP and an NHS Alliance chairman said, "NHS Direct is a valuable service that patients appreciate. It is good to see it is now achieving more of what it set out to do - relieving pressure on GP surgeries and A&E.However it needs to work more closely with general practice to ensure the best possible advice is given to individual patients and continuity of care maintained."
Commenting on the survey, NHS Direct chief executive, Matt Tee, said, "These figures quite clearly show that NHS Direct is helping take the pressure off GP surgeries and A&E. What is particularly significant is how many of the callers advised to treat themselves at home would have otherwise gone to doctors' surgeries and A&E. It is also clear that the public like the service they get. Our patient satisfaction ratings are very high compared to almost any health, call-centre or online service."
Among the patients speaking to NHS Direct, 93 per cent were happy with the referral process and the way NHS Direct handled the problem. 95% of the 4,163 callers that approached NHS Direct were left happy and satisfied.