Lives are being put at risk by a new centralised call centre for hospitals in Scotland, doctors have claimed.

GPs say that a drive by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) to merge separate switchboards is leading to hundreds of unanswered calls.

Some physicians claim that delays of around 20 minutes in answering the phone have meant that they have referred patients to hospital without first speaking to the institution’s receiving team.

Dr Kate Pickering, a GP in the west end of Glasgow, said the process - now four weeks old - had deprived her of the ability to seek specialist advice from hospital consultants, which in turn had compromised the care offered to patients.

NHSGGC said: “The new contact centre has been developed to improve the communication process for the public and internal callers. It modernises all of Glasgow’s telecommunications and offers staff an improved environment in which to work with locker rooms, a common room and kitchen facilities available on site.”