The higher than usual levels of Norovirus over the Christmas and New Year break helped to push up calls and queries to NHS Direct.

Contacts were depressed to around 730,000 last year by the relatively warm festive weather.

But performance statistics issued by the telephone and online advice service it was used 796,000 times between 17 December 2012 and 1 January this year.

Around 45,000 calls and online checks were connected with queries about diarrhoea and vomiting.

NHS Direct was one of the first, new digital services to be created by the NHS. It started out as a nurse-led telephone helpline, but moved into online services and apps.

The latest statistics show that more than half of its Christmas contacts – 58% – were via its online health and symptom checkers; and people were more likely to go online than to call the service about winter vomiting bug-type symptoms.

While 15,000 people called the service’s 0845 number about diarrhoea and vomiting, some 30,000 used the relevant online symptom checker.

Other common reasons for using NHS Direct services were colds and flu, abdominal pain, rashes and other problems and medicines inquiries.

Chief executive Nick Chapman said: “Over half of contacts with NHS Direct this year were via the web and mobile app.

“This shows that our online health and symptom checkers remain popular with patients, and the importance of the digital channel for providing health advice.”

The service was busiest on the Sunday before Christmas, Boxing Day, and the weekend between Christmas and New Year.

The figures include calls to NHS Direct’s own helpline, and to services that it provides for other health organisations, such as the NHS 111 pilot sites, local out-of-hours services, and ‘category C’ calls to ambulance services.

Chapman will be moving on this summer, when the decommissioning of NHS Direct’s 0845 service has been completed and new arrangements for the NHS 111 triage service put in place.

The organisation will be taken forward by Trevor Smith, the trust’s finance and performance director, who has been appointed as managing director.