Please send me SCA's fortnightly briefing:

January 30, 2013

Petition your way to Parliament

One of the most admired aspects of the Scottish Parliament is its system of public petitions – direct entry into the Parliamentary process for anyone who feels they have a ‘national issue’ that they want something done about.  Caroline Mockford, a community activist with the Poverty Alliance, was appalled at the cost of phoning NHS 24 from her mobile and began to worry that these charges might inhibit others from using what can be a lifesaving service. And so she became a petitioner.


Petition your way to Parliament 

Scottish News

Calls to the medical advice service NHS 24 in Scotland will be free from summer next year, Health Secretary Alex Neil has announced.

The helpline, which dealt with almost 1.5 million calls last year, is to get a new number – 111 – in 2014.

That will mean from then people will not be charged for any calls they make to the service, which offers advice and support when GP practices are closed.

While calls to NHS 24 from BT landlines are currently charged at the same price as a local phone call, those made from mobile phones can be more expensive.

Mr Neil is due to meet campaigners who had demanded a new free number be introduced. Caroline Mockford, a community activist with the Poverty Alliance, submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament on the issue after she was charged almost £8 for a call she made to NHS 24 from her mobile phone.

Mr Neil said: “I strongly believe that our NHS should be free at the point of contact and this new number is about ensuring that this applies to those who seek support and advice from NHS 24. By introducing this memorable and free number we are removing any barrier for the public to access the health advice when their GP surgery is closed.”

He added: “By ensuring people have access to health information it will also help to keep emergency lifesaving services available for those who really need them.”

Ms Mockford said that many people on low incomes do not have landline telephones and instead rely on “pay as you go” mobile phones. She carried out research which showed a third of these people said the cost of phoning NHS 24 could be a barrier to them and that they would have to phone 999 if they needed help and had no credit on their mobile.

Ms Mockford said: “I felt that action needed to be taken on this, especially for those with disabilities like myself, parents with children and pensioners who are most often the people who need this service.

“The introduction of a 111 number in 2014 will save people having to dial 999 and I also believe it will have a knock-on impact on the number of people attending accident and emergency inappropriately. So, I would like to thank the Scottish Government for acting upon the views of the people.”