NHS Direct


I was disappointed to hear that the government have decided to shut down NHS Direct for a number of reasons.

On a personal note, as a family we have used the service many times. With four young kids we have all sorts of germs and knocks each month, and we’ve always received a good service from NHS Direct.

As a concept I think the service is spot on. When we were on holiday last week, one of us felt a bit under the weather. The local hospital was glad to see tourists, for a few hundred pounds on the first consultation. We had travel insurance, but to lay out the money and the aggravation of going to A&E on hospital just didn’t appear. Whilst looking through the travel insurance documentation I noticed a phone number to speak to some private nurses, free of charge for the policy. After a quick call they gave a satisfactory opinion, some confident reassurance and suggested remedy. We took their advice and 24 hours later the problem had gone, with no inconvenience of having to claim back any expenses later when we returned from holiday.

If you try to imagine how healthcare will operate (no pun intended) in say, 25 years, I think we’ll have a lot more remote healthcare. We will sit at home and have a video call with a doctor based anywhere in the World. As for how the doctor performs his tests (temperature, blood pressure and so on) – these devices are already available with USB connectivity (e.g. this BP monitor or this thermometer patent request), to send your results through immediately.

Maybe NHS Direct is ahead of it’s time. When I speak to Americans, they are totally envious of our NHS, including NHS Direct. The thought of phoning a service that provides medical assurance (I would imagine this covers half the calls – and keeps the people who just want reassurance out of A&E) and advice – all without providing a credit card, is alien to most countries around the World.

I for one, will be sad to see it go.

3 thoughts on “NHS Direct

  1. We don’t know if it is going or not yet. If you read around the Guardian’s churnalism, you’ll see that plans for NHS 111 to subsume NHS Direct services are still under way.As much as your anecdotal evidence for the NHS Direct being good is nice, I am more inclined to trust the opinion of the BMA, who have been lobbying for it to go for a long while (because, they say, at £25 per call (at least) it is too expensive and ties up too many front-line resources).

  2. I would hazard an educated guess that £25 per call is far cheaper than each patient sitting in the A&E waiting room. More anecdotal evidence… have you tried sitting in an A&E waiting room on a Friday night with a child? It’s a sobering (pardon the pun again) experience.My third point above is that this is **likely** to be the future of primary care medicine, whether the BMA like it or not.

  3. Just because it is more likely to be the future of PCM doesn’t mean we should keep it alive for the sake of it.And, that is besides the point anyway – we do *not* know if NHS Direct is going yet (granted if you listen to Guardian churnalism, it is).How many of the NHS Direct services that will be subsumed by NHS 111 is yet to be determined. Yes, right now, NHS 111 is an information dispensary that any call centre Joe Bloggs can do, but that doesn’t mean its capacity will not evolve once NHS direct goes.And, like I said, I am willing to put my faith in the BMA on this one.

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