NHS Direct is planning to set itself a higher target for the proportion of calls it deals with 'in-house'.

The service has previously come under fire for being overly cautious in its advice and referring too many people to urgent and emergency services.

Its current target from the Department of Health is to deal with at least 50 per cent of calls by giving information or "self care" advice.

Managers want to increase this to more than 60 per cent and are consulting healthcare staff and experts to decide whether it would be safe.

Evidence based

NHS Direct clinical director Helen Young said: "We think there is more to gain [than the 50 per cent DH target].

"We don't want to clog up other systems.

"We want to make sure the clinical evidence supports that and that we are not taking risks that will affect patient safety."

Several consultation workshops are being held and will also be used to develop new benchmarks for how callers are dealt with. Ms Young said another role of the exercise was to "dispel myths" about the service.