Published: 24/04/2003, Volume II3, No. 5825 Page 7

By 2006, NHS Direct will be expected to handle over 16 million phone calls per year and will be the single point of access for out-of-hours care, according to radical expansion plans announced last week by the Department of Health.

The nurse-led telephone advice service, launched in 1998, now takes 6 million calls a year.

By 2005-06, NHS Direct will cost£182m per year and tenders are being invited to run an NHS Direct digital TV service which will start in 2004. It will provide information on health conditions and treatments, healthy living, medicines, health advice for travellers, health and safety advice and details of local NHS services including performance information.

Other proposed internet developments include a 'personal health space' that could provide secure access to patient records and online transactions.