Scottish Labour has said that the NHS workforce “still cannot cope” following the pandemic, as new figures reveal one in four calls have gone unanswered.
New figures have revealed that around 180,000 calls to NHS 24 have been left unanswered in the last five months – which is around 23% of calls to the helpline.
It comes after the installation of a £20m NHS 24 facility in Dundee, which was announced by health secretary Humza Yousaf in January.
It was revealed last month that the number of distress phone calls made to NHS mental health services since 2019 have soared across Scotland as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The latest figures from June show that the average waiting time to speak to NHS 24 was 22 minutes, with almost 44,000 calls not able to get through.
Scottish Labour’s public health spokesperson, Paul O’Kane, has called on the health secretary to resolve the situation before “NHS 24 collapses”.
He said: “It’s clear NHS 24 still cannot cope with the crisis engulfing our NHS.
“The extra investment in NHS 24 was welcome, but sticking plasters won’t do the trick as long as the SNP keep letting our NHS fall deeper into chaos.
“Someone looking for help not only faces unanswered calls to NHS 24 but unprecedented waits at A&E, a battle for an appointment with a GP, and record waiting lists for treatment.
“Despite the best efforts of hardworking NHS staff, people are being bounced from pillar to post because of dangerous SNP incompetence.
“The Health Secretary needs to get a grip before NHS 24 collapses under the pressure of the mess he is neglecting.”
Janice Houston, director of service delivery, NHS 24, said: “As with the rest of the NHS in Scotland, NHS 24 is experiencing very high call volumes to the 111 service.
“Since the start of the pandemic NHS 24 has rapidly expanded the numbers of staff within our services to support our callers as well as opening two new centres.
“Continued high demand for the 111 service means that, at times, people have experienced a longer wait time for their calls to be answered.
“Our automated telephone messaging system gives callers options of alternative routes to care, will advise how long the current wait is and an option to call later if not urgent.
“This clear signposting means people may choose to end their call to 111.
“For example, in the case of an emergency, callers will always be advised to dial 999.
“We also advise people that they may be able to get help from their local community pharmacy, or via our symptom checkers on NHSinform.scot.
“As with all NHS boards, we have a number of staff off sick with Covid. However, our colleagues continue to work tirelessly, with a commitment to deliver safe and effective services 24/7, and answer every call as quickly as possible.”