Health secretary apologises after nearly 35,000 NHS 24 calls cancelled

According to figures obtained by STV News, 34,918 phone calls were abandoned in March, after an average of 14 minutes.

The health secretary has apologised after nearly 35,000 callers to NHS 24 hung up last month before reaching an operator.

Neil Gray was responding to figures obtained by STV News that showed 34,918 phone calls were abandoned in March alone – with callers waiting an average of 14 minutes before doing so.

That represents almost double the number of cancelled calls in November, when 17,683 people hung up.

NHS 24 says a proportion of those who hung up did so because 111 was not the “most appropriate” service for them at that time.

It added that many callers make an “informed choice” to call back at a later time.

One of those callers who hung up in March was Kim Franklin, who tried to speak to NHS 24 when she developed pain in her back and chest.

She told STV News: “I’ve had a heart attack before and I knew that this feeling was totally different.

“So I just thought I’d phone for advice and see what they say, and take it from there.

“I got an automated message to say there would be a two hour wait and then was just put on hold.

Kim Franklin tried to speak to NHS 24 when she developed back and chest pain

“I’ve seen how busy the paramedics and hospitals can be and I didn’t want to add to that so I thought I’d try 111 instead.

“Because the pain was getting worse I decided to just phone 999 and see what they say.”

Gray, the Scottish Government’s cabinet secretary for NHS recovery, health and social care, said: “I would apologise to anyone who has had to wait longer than they would want to get through to NHS 24.

“Obviously, there is an increasing demand on its services.

“As part of previous winter reviews, we’ve looked at making sure there is a call back service available.

“NHS 24 has been doing an incredible job at ensuring that they’re triaging people to the most appropriate forms of care.

“We continue to invest in our health service with a record level of investment this year of £19.5bn in the face of a falling block grant from Westminster.”

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