NHS direct does help to take pressure off GPs and A&E units, according to independent research published last week.
The nurse-led triage service, set up in 1997, was criticised this time last year by doctors and ambulance staff for referring too many patients to GPs or emergency services.
But findings of a survey of 4,554 NHS Direct callers, commissioned by the service, appear to suggest it does achieve its aim of encouraging more patients to treat themselves at home.
Just over 40% of callers were advised to treat themselves at home, while 11% were referred to A&E and 28% to their GP. Nearly three-quarters said they would have gone to either their GP or A&E if they had not been able to call NHS Direct.
Mark Speed, joint managing director of IFF Research, which carried out the survey, said: ‘These are very positive findings for NHS Direct.’