NHS 24 has undergone ‘radical changes’ in order to improve its service to the public since last year’s review calling for an overhaul of the helpline, Scottish health minister Andy Kerr has claimed.

Kerr was speaking at the helpline’s annual review, where he said the service had overcome early difficulties to provide a ‘prompt and efficient’ service to patients.

He said: “NHS 24 has done well to improve its service following last year’s independent review.” Callback times, one particular aspect criticised in the independent review, had reduced, and staffing increased.

He added that the service “has had difficulties in the past which have been well-documented but it has undergone radical change and I am confident that [it] has dramatically improved.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Executive Health Department told E-Health Insider that the news was a step in the right direction after last year’s review, and after a report from the fatal accident inquiry into the deaths of two patients in Aberdeenshire, this month, condemned the service.

“We are extremely pleased to see the NHS 24 service doing a lot better, after the independent report criticised it. 99.6% of calls are now answered within 30 seconds – a huge increase compared to 54% last March.

“The annual review has shown that NHS 24’s promise to boost staff numbers and create a much more effective service has been fulfilled and we hope public confidence in the system increases as a result of this.”

Mr Kerr believes that patient satisfaction is already on the rise, claiming that it has been ‘extremely positive’.

“Most have told stories of NHS 24 supporting rapid and efficient access to the appropriate out-of-hours service and providing re-assuring self-care advice helping to allay concerns before face-to-face clinical contact is made.”

A spokesperson for NHS 24 said: “We are pleased with the feedback we have received from our annual review and would urge patients to telephone us for any out-of hours advice they need medical advice on.”

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