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Planning Retirement Online

National Health Direct

                                             December 2008


Health advice when you need it

It’s winter, and for many reasons that is the time when we are most vulnerable to sickness and bugs. In the old days a health problem meant a trip to the doctors, and all-to-often a long wait in an overheated waiting room with people sneezing and coughing all over us before finally seeing the doctor.

Today of course we still need to visit the doctor for many reasons, but the good news is that for general medical information and support, NHS Direct can offer an alternative - a wide range of professional advice given to you in the comfort of your own home.

For some people, NHS Direct is already an integral part of their lives; others haven’t made the switch yet from the traditional idea that talking to a health professional means going to the surgery.

While NHS Direct offers a number of valuable services, its telephone service is the most popular, offering professional advice 24 hours a day every day of the year to help people with their health worries and concerns.

When you call NHS Direct, you can speak to a real person. Initially you will be asked to give some basic information about yourself including details of any medication you may be taking, so do check you have the proper names available before you make the call.

Then you can talk about your problems which will be professionally assessed followed by advice on the best course of action. You may be told how you can look after yourself at home, or it may be suggested that you visit your local chemist for advice or a specific product.

If it is felt your problem is more serious, then you will be advised to personally visit a health professional such as your doctor or how to access the ambulance service.

When you call NHS Direct, your call will be handled by someone with adequate knowledge and medical experience to assess your condition in a totally professional way. NHS Direct employs over 1,200 nurses and has 36 call centres around the country which are all linked into a central virtual contact centre. The lines are open and manned 24 hours a day 365 days a year and along with the nurses, there are other health advisors and also dental advisors available to deal with a wide range of health queries.

On top of the important telephone service, there is a lot more to NHS Direct. On its website,, it offers a wealth of health information.

It has also recently joined forces with NHS Choices to provide health information on

This site includes a number of popular services including a Self-Help Guide; the Health Encyclopaedia; Common Health Questions and also an online enquiry service where you can send in non-emergency health questions.

NHS Direct also has two digital TV channels. NHS Direct on Freeview and NHS Direct on Sky Interactive. They are both packed with information, check out how to access them through the NHS Direct website.

At the moment, the cost of calls to NHS Direct is a maximum of 5p per minute from a BT landline. Cost of calls from mobiles and other networks may vary and you may be charged a minimum cost per call.

There are separate services in Scotland and Wales.

In Scotland there is NHS 24; this is a 24 hour telephone health advice and information service available on 08454 24 24 24  or

In Wales there is NHS Direct Wales which provides information in English and Welsh. It is available on 0845 4647 or

But wherever you live, you can now be reassured by the fact that health and medical advice is only a call away.


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