Busy Christmas and New Year for NHS Direct

NHS Direct today reported that it received nearly a quarter of a million phone calls during the ten day Christmas holiday period.

The number of calls was 15% lower than last year - but the decrease was more than made up for by a 30% increase in visitors to the website www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk which received more than 340,000 visits over the same period.

The busiest days for phone calls were Saturdays 23 and 30 December with nearly 35,000 calls each day. Boxing Day is traditionally the busiest day of the holiday period but in a change to the historical trend, the week-ends were busier this year.

Throughout the holidays, triage began on 96% of urgent cases within 20 minutes - this is above the 95% target for the telephone service.

There has been some change to the normal Top 10 patient illnesses: Coughs and Toothaches have increased while Chest Pain has reduced.

Abdominal Pain
Dental Tooth Jaw
Sore Throat
Chest Pain
Ear Ache
Fever Toddler (Age 1-
4 years)
Use of the NHS Direct website www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk has increased by about 30% since last year.

On the NHS Direct website the top topics for Christmas were

  • Chicken pox
  • Info re walk-in centres
  • Diarrhoea
  • Food poisoning
  • Indigestion

The top topics over New Year were:

  • Chicken Pox
  • Chest infection
  • Back Pain
  • Flu

An NHS Direct Digital TV service is also now available in the majority of homes in the UK - the service launched on Freeview in the week before Christmas.  No statistics are yet available on Christmas use.

Commenting on the Christmas performance figures, NHS Direct's Chief Operating Officer Dr Mike Sadler said:
"NHS Direct has answered nearly a quarter of a million phone calls over the past ten days.  There have been even more visits to our website and our digital TV service is now available in the majority of homes.  By any measure that's a lot of people helped: feedback from patients shows that they appreciate the service which is available 24/7 every day of the year and is an essential part of the modern health economy."

Examples of comments from users of NHS Direct over the holiday:
"I used your service on 25/12/2006 and was totally impressed by it.  I was spoken to promptly by your health advisor but once she recommended I spoke to a nurse there was no wait whatsoever for her either.. The nurse was professional and friendly in her help. She also made me feel relaxed and confident in her approach, I cannot reiterate any more the friendly and professional help I received."

"An amazing service and thank you very much. You really helped me out tonight when I was on my own. You're all saints!"

"NHS Direct is my lifeline. I suffer mental health problems and find it hard to access services due to the nature of my disabilities. This service is a vital link to me. You are unsung heroes and bless you all"

Notes to Editors

NHS Direct provides health information and advice 24hours a day, 365 days a year.

  • NHS Direct handles around 6.5 million telephone calls a year
  • The NHS Direct website www.nhsdirect.nhs.ukattracts more than 1.5 million visits each month
  • NHS Direct interactive Digital TV includes 3000 pages of information on 500 health topics.

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