A memorable new free number for NHS 24 is to be introduced.
The existing number for NHS 24 will be replaced by 111 in summer 2014, meaning people in Scotland will no longer be charged when calling the advice service from a landline or mobile.
NHS 24 will continue to deliver the same high quality service for anyone seeking advice and support during the out of hours period when their GP surgery is closed.
The current cost to call NHS 24 from a BT landline is the price of a local phone call, with calls from other landline service providers and mobile providers often costing more.
Health Secretary, Alex Neil, said: “I strongly believe that our NHS should be free at the point of contact and this new number is about ensuring that this applies to those who seek support and advice from NHS 24.
“By introducing this memorable and free number we are removing any barrier for the public to access the health advice when their GP surgery is closed. By ensuring people have access to health information it will also help to keep emergency lifesaving services available for those who really need them.”
NHS 24 Chief Executive John Turner said: “We welcome the Cabinet Secretary’s announcement today. NHS 24 has been providing high quality, safe and effective telephone triage and support services to the people of Scotland during the out of hours period for the past 10 years. We have a range of highly skilled staff taking 1.5 million calls per year from patients when their GP surgery is closed.
“NHS 24 will work closely with a range of NHS services such as the GP out of hours service, primary care emergency centres, A&E services, the Scottish Ambulance Service and patient representatives to fully plan and implement the change to 111. This will help ensure that, when 111 is introduced to Scotland next year, NHS 24 and our partners across Scotland, will continue to provide high quality support to patients and their families on the new number, which is easy to remember and free to call.”