More than 850,000 people accessed NHS Direct’s telephone and online services over the festive period, making it the helpline’s busiest ever Christmas and New Year.

NHS Direct said performance statistics showed that it answered more than 330,000 telephone calls in the two week period between 19 December and 3 January and logged more than 520,000 online visits for advice and guidance.

The two busiest days on the telephone were Monday 28 December – when 30,700 calls were answered – and Sunday 27 December – when 29,700 calls were answered. NHS Direct‘s average daily call volume for the previous month was 16,700 calls.

Nick Chapman, chief executive of NHS Direct, said staff had had a busy and successful time helping record numbers of people over the web and the telephone.

He added: “They have been able to provide advice for many patients meaning they have not had to access face-to-face health services over this period, reducing demand on accident and emergency departments and GP surgeries.”

NHS Direct said online visits had included 100,000 visits to the new online self assessment tool, launched just before Christmas. The tool enables users to bypass an initial telephone assessment. People who need further advice can click to get a call-back from an NHS Direct nurse adviser.

NHS Direct said that during the Christmas and New Year period, 60% of all callers were given advice on how to treat their symptoms at home without the need to attend another part of the NHS.

The service also handled more than 7,300 ambulance Category C (low priority) calls for a number of ambulance services, up from 2,400 calls for the same period last year.