NHS Direct has become a trust under the Department of Health's review of arm's-length bodies.
It will apply for foundation trust status following the change, made on 1 April. An NHS Direct spokesman said: 'Becoming a foundation trust would give us greater autonomy and financial flexibility.'
The review will see the number of arm's-length bodies cut from 38 to 20 by the end of 2008. NHS Direct will continue to provide its core phone, web and digital TV services, but also plans to work with primary care trusts to support local services.