NHS 24

NHS 24 is Scotland's national telehealth and telecare organisation. This special health board runs a telephone advice and triage service that covers the out-of-hours period (Mondays to Fridays between 6pm and 8am, public holidays and all weekend). The telephone service allows people who feel unwell or those caring for them to obtain health advice and information if it is not convenient or possible to wait until they can visit their general practitioner when the practice is next open. The advice line is not intended as a substitute for obtaining an emergency ambulance service via 999. The telehealth services provided by NHS Scotland fulfil some similar functions to NHS Direct Wales and the NHS 111 scheme in England.

Using NHS 24

The service can be used in more than one way:

Self-Help Guide (Internet)

This enables advice to be obtained without a consultation by answering a series of questions after accessing the main http://www.nhs24.scot/ web page and selecting the NHS Self-help guide option. Users will be given one of three final results :

  • Self-Care, if it is safe to manage the problem at home
  • Call NHS 24, if it is necessary to speak to a member of NHS 24 staff for further advice
  • Dial 999, if the problem requires the use of an ambulance service

Since 2005 the NHS 24 Internet service has included access to information from a NHS Health Encyclopaedia,[1] giving information on illnesses, conditions, tests and treatment and to pharmacy opening times throughout Scotland. The information that is made available via this internet service is used under licence from the UK Department of Health.


111 is the current, normal telephone number for most callers who are able to use a telephone without difficulty. This number is free to call from mobile phones as well as landlines, and was adopted across Scotland in April 2014 to replace the old number, 08454 24 24 24 which has been phased out.[2][3]

A translation service[4] is provided for a number of languages for which leaflets are issued which instruct callers to tell the NHS 24 staff :

"I am [nationality described in English], I do not speak English."

18001 08454 24 24 24

This number is used for callers who have to use a Textphone.

Trained call handlers triage patients according to outcomes to a set of questions. If the service is busy, lower-priority calls will be placed in a clinical queue which is monitored. Depending on the triage outcome, callers will be called back within one, two or three hours. Callers are always told to call back if their condition worsens. During particularly busy times, callers are always told in a recorded message how long they will expect to wait before their call is answered.

At the end of the consultation, NHS 24 will contact the Scottish Ambulance Service if an emergency response is necessary.

Instructions for use of the service by people who do not speak English are available on the website[5] or in paper form by calling 0141 435 3901.


NHS 24 is a Special Health Board which was established on 6 April 2001[6] under the NHS 24 (Scotland) Order 2001, although the overall aims for Health Boards are defined by the NHS (Scotland) Act 1978 and subsequent legislation.[7]

The service launched in 2002, with the first contact centre in Aberdeen using around 60 nurses to provide advice to callers from the Grampian area, before the service was rolled out to other areas in the North of Scotland.[8]

NHS 24 has contact centres in Aberdeen, Clydebank, Glasgow and South Queensferry. At peak times, calls may be answered in any one of these centres. NHS 24 also acts as the first point of contact for primary care advice in the out-of-hours period. The 2004 Scottish GP contract contained a right for GPs to opt-out of out-of-hours working. By 2006, 80% of Scottish GP practices had exercised this right.

A new call handing and IT computer system, called the Future Programme was expected in 2013, but has experienced significant delays.[9] With a current cost of £117 million, the new system crashed on 28 October 2015 shortly after it was launched.[10] It was shut down on 13 November, but it is expected that NHS 24 will relaunch the system later in 2017.[9]


A management board has responsibility for the running of the organisation.[11]


  1. "NHS 24: Report on the 2005/6 Audit" (PDF). Audit Scotland. 31 March 2007. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  2. "Our new number is 111". NHS 24. 29 April 2014. Archived from the original on 29 April 2014.
  3. "New 111 freephone number for NHS 24 helpline". BBC News. 29 April 2014.
  4. "Language Line". NHS 24. Archived from the original on 27 October 2011.
  5. "Other languages". NHS 24. Archived from the original on 11 October 2011.
  6. "Press: Background". NHS24. 22 April 2010. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  7. "NHS 24: Management statement". NHS24. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  8. "NHS 24 goes live". Scottish Government. 26 August 2002. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  9. "NHS 24 shelves new £117m call-handling system". BBC news. 13 November 2015. Retrieved 13 November 2015.
  10. Puttick, Helen (29 October 2015). "New multi-million pound technology at NHS 24 abandoned within an hour". The Herald. Retrieved 13 November 2015.
  11. "NHS 24 board". NHS 24. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
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