NHS 24 staff took 40 calls a minute during peak periods over Christmas. December 27 was the Scottish helpline’s busiest day for three years, with more than 14,300 calls received.
Overall the helpline received nearly 30,000 calls between Christmas Day and December 27 as surgeries closed across Scotland for the festive period.
NHS Scotland has urged people to be prepared to cope with winter illnesses ahead of further surgery closures over Hogmanay.
NHS 24 medical director Dr George Crooks asked the public to protect themselves by following health guidelines in the Be Ready For Winter campaign, including ensuring medicine cabinets are well stocked to cope with seasonal colds and flu-like illness.
He said: “Monday was the busiest day for NHS 24 since January 2007 and the service has coped extremely well with the demand.
“Working in partnership with NHS Scotland colleagues, the NHS 24 staff have done a great job managing the demand and we would like to thank them for their continued efforts to deliver a high-quality service at this very busy time of year.
“Winter is undoubtedly NHS Scotland’s busiest time of year, and it’s important people know who to turn to if they are unwell.
“Pharmacists provide a range of services to deal with minor illnesses and ailments, and in many cases can provide something over the counter to help ease symptoms.
“We’re advising people to seek the pharmacist’s advice as the first step, but to make an appointment with their GP if they have an illness or injury that just won’t go away.”
Dr Crooks said people in vulnerable groups should get their seasonal flu jab early in the new year.
More than 230,000 people in Scotland have already received the jab since the vaccination programme started in October.
Although more than 70% of over-65s have had their jab, the uptake has been lower among pregnant women, with only 19% of this group taking up the offer of a vaccination so far.
He said that although current levels of flu are what would be expected at this time of year, the rate of GP consultations for flu-like illness across Scotland has been increasing, with various flu strains including H1N1 currently in circulation.
Dr Crooks said: “It’s important that people who are entitled to the flu jab, particularly pregnant women or older people with chronic breathing and heart problems, make sure they get it.
“Although GP practices are closed for a four-day period over Hogmanay, the flu vaccine will still be available in the new year and people should make sure they are protected if they are in one of these groups.”