A new non-emergency telephone number, 111, has been proposed by Ofcom.
The service would provide advice when patients need medical help urgently but the situation is not life-threatening.
Following a consultation on the idea, the Department of Health intends to pilot the number in certain parts of England from spring 2010 and expects to roll out the service across the country if it proves successful.
Health authorities in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are believed to be monitoring the outcomes of the pilot before considering whether to introduce the number themselves.
The established numbers, 999 and 112, will continue to be the numbers to call in an emergency. Ofcom’s consultation on the new number will close on 20 August.
Ambulance Service Network Director Liz Kendall said the new number could ‘transform patient care’.
‘But to work properly, 111 must be just the front end of a much better system of healthcare which ensures patients get the right services, in the right place, at the right time,’ she said.
‘111 should therefore be the “icing on the cake” of much wider changes to the emergency and urgent healthcare system so we can provide a range of urgent services 24/7 including GPs in and out of hours, walk-in and urgent care centres, minor injuries units, social care and mental health services and community nursing teams,’ she said.
Do we need another national healthcare advice line?