People in Scotland will no longer be charged for calling NHS 24 after April 2014 when the existing number will be replaced by 111.
The current cost to call NHS 24 from a BT landline is the price of a local phone call, with calls from other landline service providers and mobile providers often costing more.
In welcoming the news Falkirk West MSP Michael Matheson said:
“This is fantastic news that will see local people continue to receive the same high-quality service from NHS 24 without being charged.
“NHS 24 is designed to help people get the right care, from the right people, at the right time. Staff at NHS 24 have been providing effective telephone support to the people of Scotland for the past decade, taking 1.5million calls every year.
“It is a fundamental principle of the Scottish Government that our health service should be free at the point of contact – and the introduction of this number will ensure that is the case when people seek advice from NHS 24.
Mr Matheson added
“The impact of introducing this free number could extend past easing the burden of people having to pay for it, as we could also see fewer people misusing 999 and accident and emergency.
“This is yet another step the Scottish Government is taking to make our health service more user-friendly. With patient care safer than ever, we must continue this hard work and ensure our health service continues to go from strength to strength.”