Feeds

NHS Direct gets to be number one, one, one

Proposal for those unable to look up a phone number

Boost IT visibility and business value

UK regulator Ofcom has proposed allocating the number 111 for non-emergency medical advice, arguing that no-one can remember the number for NHS Direct.

The proposal runs to 61 pages (pdf), but boils down to the idea that people dialling "111" anywhere in England should be connected to NHS Direct. Scotland should follow soon, while Wales thinks about it and Northern Ireland considers introducing something along the lines of NHS Direct first.

There is some argument that 116117 would make a better alternative: it's been proposed by Germany and is currently in the process of being ratified for unification across Europe. But as it stands, it is designed to connect the caller to the nearest doctor rather than to an NHS-Direct-type service.

Most callers trying to get hold of NHS Direct would be delighted to be connected to the nearest doctor instead of the "trained health advisors ... supported by in-house software" that NHS Direct offers, but that would cost a lot more and probably be a waste of resources when the primary function is to tell people they haven't got Swine flu.

Whether non-emergency callers need a easily-remembered number is also arguable - the very fact that it's not an emergency should give them time to look up the proper number*. But that's quite a lot of effort, and the introduction of 111 might reduce the non-emergency calls that 999 currently has to deal with - Ofcom reckons that 29 per cent of emergency calls made last year fell into that category, with no ambulance being dispatched.

Callers will have pay though: Ofcom isn't proposing that 111 be a free number any more than calls to the existing NHS Direct service are free. But the regulator notes that "experience with 101 (the three-digit number initiated by the Home Office) showed that negotiation with telecoms providers can result in the same call charge across virtually all operators", so at least everyone will pay the same amount.

All makes sense to us, but if you feel strongly on the issue then Ofcom is welcoming comments until 20th of August. ®

* 0845 4647 in England and Wales, 08454 242424 for Scotland and those in Northern Ireland have to cope on their own, in case you were wondering.

Seven Steps to Software Security

More from The Register

next story
Scotland's BIG question: Will independence cost me my broadband?
They can take our lives, but they'll never take our SPECTRUM
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Bring back error correction, say Danish 'net boffins
We don't need no steenkin' TCP/IP retransmission and the congestion it causes
NBN Co adds apartments to FTTP rollout
Commercial trial locations to go live in September
Samsung Z Tizen OS mobe is post-phoned – this time for good?
Russian launch for Sammy's non-droid knocked back
Telstra to KILL 2G network by end of 2016
GSM now stands for Grave-Seeking-Mobile network
Seeking LTE expert to insert small cells into BT customers' places
Is this the first step to a FON-a-like 4G network?
What FTC lawsuit? T-Mobile US touts 10GB, $100 family-of-4 plan
Folks 'could use that money for more important things' says CEO Legere
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.