New Zealand’s public health advice line is handling more inquiries than ever, with a 16% increase in the twelve months to September 2016. In a press release following the recent visit by the Health Minister Jonathan Coleman to one of the four call centres the Government said that more services will be added to the advice line in the coming months.
Seven advice lines, operated by multiple providers, were brought together a year ago and the 24/7 advice service now operates out of four call centres and employs 250 people, according to Dr Coleman. Known as the National telehealth service (bit of a misnomer), it is operated by Homecare Medical owned by ProCare and Pegasus Health, two of New Zealand’s largest health organisations. It brings together advisory services for queries relating to general health, alcohol and drugs, depression, gambling, immunisation, poisoning and quitting smoking. The advice can be obtained through phone, text and online programmes and some are delivered though partner organisations such as the National Poisons Centre.
This is similar to the UK’s non-emergency NHS 111 service that provides a 24/7 free advice line giving access to trained advisors supported by healthcare professionals, except that the UK service is probably more integrated.