More than two-thirds of British adults believe a single medical care number that directs them to the most appropriate health resource would be useful, according to a YouGov study.
It found that 67% of people would like to see this initiative, which the Healthcare Commission called for in 2008.
The survey looked at the circumstances when people would dial 999 and their attitudes towards nonemergency numbers. It found that almost two thirds of British adults are wasting valuable emergency services resources by dialling 999 in nonurgent situations.
When it comes to medical care, however, almost half (46 per cent) of Britons would call their GP if they required nonurgent help, more than a third (36%) would get in touch with NHS Direct and only 1% would dial 999.
"Britain seems to have mixed views on what constitutes an emergency. That’s potentially dangerous and can waste emergency services resources," said David Astley, Health and Emergency Services specialist at ntl:Telewest Business, which commissioned the study.
He added: "Educating the public on what number to call in a nonemergency is crucial, given the findings of our study. Having the right people dealing with each enquiry will help public sector organisations make the best and most efficient use of manpower and equipment, and improve call response times.”
While the Home Office has decided to discontinue direct funding of the national 101 number operations, more than half of people surveyed felt that the government should finance local nonemergency numbers. Just 29% felt it was the responsibility of either local authorities or police forces.