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How to become an NHS 24 call handler

To become a call handler, you must complete NHS 24's core training programme. Afterwards, you'll receive support as you transition into the role.

What is an NHS 24 call handler?

NHS 24 provides digital and telephone-based health and care services to help people access the right care when needed. The NHS 24 Unscheduled Care Service handles 1.5 million calls annually. Approximately 50% of these are received at weekends.

Call handlers provide person-centred, safe, and effective healthcare on the telephone. They assist callers in various situations, such as minor illnesses, mental health support, or out-of-hours dental care.

They use a patient contact management system to:

  • Accurately collect and record information.
  • Provide self-care information and advice where appropriate.
  • Direct callers to clinical colleagues or other NHS services.

Calls are transferred to the Scottish Ambulance Service in life-threatening emergencies or where the patient needs an immediate response.

Find out more about working at NHS 24.

NHS 24 call handler

Starting your career as an NHS 24 call handler

Choosing subjects at school

If you’re interested in a career as an NHS 24 call handler, useful school subjects include:

  • English
  • Maths
  • Administration and IT
  • Science

Speak to your guidance teacher or careers adviser about subjects offered at your school.

Workplacements and volunteering

You may find it helpful to get some healthcare experience by doing a work placement or volunteering. You’ll get training, increase your knowledge, and learn new skills. This could help you when applying for a new job with NHSScotland. 

Education and training pathway

To become an NHS 24 call handler, you must complete a comprehensive in-house core training programme. You’ll need National 5 qualifications at SCQF level 5 or equivalent to apply. It’s helpful to have customer service or caring experience for this role.

During the 3-week programme, you’ll learn how to navigate the patient contact management system and connect people with vital care and support.

After training, you’ll work for 2 weeks in a ‘protected pod’, supported by your manager while transitioning into your new role.

View NHS 24 vacancies.

Get to know the role

As an NHS 24 call hander, you’ll accurately record information given by callers on the patient contact management system. You’ll identify their needs by using system-generated guidance and asking additional questions. You’ll then follow instructions to determine the appropriate advice or service for the patient.

NHS 24 call handlers work an 8-week fixed rota aligned to call patterns and volumes. The core rota changes during the festive period and other key holidays so the workforce can meet the demands of the service.

As an NHS 24 call handler, you must join the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme managed by Disclosure Scotland.

Typical tasks related to the role include:

  • Search patient information during calls, check details, and follow NHS 24 protocols and legislative requirements to update records.
  • Transfer calls to the Scottish Ambulance Service in life-threatening emergencies or when patients need an immediate response while you remain calm and reassure the caller.
  • Support patients by providing advice to help them manage their condition at home, where appropriate.
  • Make outgoing calls to update patients or ask additional questions to help speed up their referral to the appropriate healthcare professional or service.
  • Make sure all callers have a safe and effective patient journey.
  • Maintain patient confidentiality.
  • Contribute to the continuous improvement of NHS 24 services by communicating user feedback to team managers where appropriate.
  • Participate in the preceptorship and mentoring programme for new call handlers.

Find out more about working at NHS 24.

You’ll need these skills:

  • communicating
  • resilience
  • empathy
  • focussing
  • critical thinking
  • integrity

You’ll work with:

  • nurse practitioners
  • senior charge nurses
  • physiotherapists
  • psychological wellbeing practitioners
  • pharmacists
  • clinical supervisors
  • clinical service managers
  • other call handlers

You’ll work in an NHS 24 regional centre in:

  • Aberdeen
  • Dundee
  • South Queensferry
  • Clydebank
  • Hillington
  • Glasgow

Alternatively, you could work in a local centre across Scotland.

Find out more about NHS 24 centres.

Learning and development

All NHS 24 staff must complete training regularly to comply with statutory requirements. You’ll also be encouraged to participate in continuous professional development specific to your role.

Career progression 

While working at NHS 24, you’ll have access to learning and development opportunities. They'll help you to take on new roles and challenges and achieve your career goals.

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Pay and benefits

Pay and benefits

Find out about our flexible working policies, pay rates, pensions, health and wellbeing initiatives, and career development support.

Learn more about pay and benefits

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Our blog features how-to guides, case studies, and resources for career planning, researching roles, and discovering what it's like to work in the NHS.

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