Covid Scotland: Over a quarter of NHS 24 calls terminated over winter

The Health Department has a non-emergency number 111, which is open after business hours.

Health services in Scotland have been overwhelmed in recent months as the Scottish government has been forced to bring in the military to support struggling ambulance services. In addition, health councils have urged people to go to NHS 24 instead of visiting overcrowded emergency rooms.

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Between 1 October last year and 16 January, 163,814 helpline calls were rejected out of a total of 632,637, about 25.8%, according to data provided to Scottish Labor under freedom of information legislation.

Health Minister Humza Yousaf (left) with Scottish Clinical Director Jason Leitch. Photo: Jeff J. Mitchell/pool/AFP via Getty Images

A similar inquiry submitted by the Scottish Conservatives showed 68,119 calls were rejected last September, more than in any of the next four months.

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On December 27, one person waited two hours and 14 minutes before the call was terminated.

The longest wait for a call was on January 16, when someone waited two hours and 21 minutes.

The average wait time for the entire covered period is 18 minutes 42 seconds.

Deputy Scottish Labor Leader Jackie Bailey urged the Scottish government to better support NHS 24.

“These devastating statistics are clear – the SNP’s failure to support NHS 24 has resulted in thousands of Scots losing healthcare,” she said.

“All winter, emergency services, NHS 24 and ambulance services have been in crisis, but [health secretary] Humza Yusaf looked the other way.

“The staff has been working tirelessly, but with thousands of Scots in need staying on the phone, it’s clear more support is needed.

“This is unacceptable. People are dying right now because the SNP is not supporting NHS staff.

“Winter is far from over – Humza Yousaf must stop turning his back on our National Health Service staff and those in need and act in support of the services.”

Scottish Tory health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane called the number of missed calls “surprising and deeply disturbing”.

He added: “Patients have been asked to use NHS 24 as their first port of call before heading to desperately overwhelmed emergency and emergency rooms in Scotland, so some of these calls will be related to serious illnesses.

“This has created another dangerous bottleneck in our National Health Service, which is on the brink of collapse under the SNP. Potentially life-threatening incidents were likely missed due to so many calls not being connected.

“Humza Yusuf has completely failed to step up and provide NHS 24 with the necessary resources. Too often he looks away from the ball and only reacts when it’s too late.

“These numbers should act as a catalyst for the SNP Minister of Health to urgently map out a plan that ensures patients can be confident that their NHS 24 calls will always be answered.”

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