From today, patients seeking advice from nurses and other staff at Scotland’s out-of-hours telephone service will dial 111 – the same as in England.
In addition, callers will no longer be charged when calling NHS 24 from a landline or mobile. It previously cost the price of a local phone call from a BT landline, with calls from other landline service providers and mobile providers often costing more.
The new number brings the Scottish service into sync with the NHS 111 number in England, and replaces the original NHS 24 number 08454 242424.
Scottish health secretary Alex Neil said: “I strongly believe our NHS should be free at the point of care for all, and this new number will help to protect these founding principles of the NHS.
“NHS 24 already provides a valuable service to patients across Scotland when their GP surgery is closed, and there will be absolutely no change to the high quality service provided through this new number,” he said.
“By introducing the 111 number we are removing any barrier for the public to access the health advice out of hours.”
Referring to the break-up of NHS Direct in England, Mr Neil added: “In Scotland, the 111 number will be run by NHS 24 as a public service, in public hands.”
NHS 24 chief executive John Turner said: “By dialling 111, patients throughout Scotland will receive the same high quality, trusted service that NHS 24 has delivered for more than 10 years.
“The move to a free phone number represents the next stage in the development of the country’s provider of telehealth and telecare services,” he said.