NHS Direct helps take pressure off GPs and A&E units, according to independent research.
The findings of the study by IFF Research show that the nurse-led service relieves demand on other services by encouraging patients to treat themselves at home.
Nearly half of the callers advised by NHS Direct to self-care would otherwise have gone to their GP and over a quarter would have gone to A&E.
A high proportion of callers (41%) were advised by NHS Direct to treat themselves at home, while referring 11% to A&E, 28% to a GP, 5% to walk-in centres, 4% to a dentist and 3% to a pharmacist.
Nearly three quarters (73%) of callers would have gone to either their GP or A&E if they had not been able to call NHS Direct.
Of those, 44% stated they would have sought help from their GP and 20% said they would have gone to A&E.
The three main reasons were calling were a new health concern such as an illness or injury (65%), general information (22%) and 12% had an existing condition that was worsening.
NHS Direct chief executive Matt Tee said: ‘These figures quite clearly show that NHS Direct is helping take the pressure off GP surgeries and A&E and what is particularly significant is how many of the callers advised to treat themselves at home would have otherwise gone to doctors’ surgeries and A&E.’