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Telephone health advice service popular with Kiwis

18 August 2006

Telephone health advice service popular with Kiwis

A telephone health advice service, which also offers Well Child advice is proving popular with New Zealand families.

Between July 1 and the first week of August, McKesson New Zealand Ltd, which runs Healthline, has operated the free Well Child telephone advice service previously sub- contracted to Plunket. In that time 27,192 calls were answered on the Healthline number. About 25 per cent of these calls related to children under five.

Ministry spokesman Dr Pat Tuohy said the advice and support families receive through Healthline, incorporating the Well Child line, is a valuable component of the child health care available in New Zealand.

“We want to take the opportunity to reinforce the message that parents or caregivers who want advice about parenting issues, child development or behaviour problems can ring Healthline for Well Child advice. It might be a case of the nurse advising them to contact their GP or Well Child provider the next day or offering advice over the phone around issues like feeding or behaviour problems.’’

All calls go through the same number (0800 611 116) and Well Child calls are transferred to a Well Child nurse or a registered nurse with ready access to Well Child expertise.

McKesson are on target with their agreement to ensure that all Well Child calls are handled by Well Child nurses by the beginning of October. McKesson now employs nine Well Child qualified nurses and another Well Child nurse is due to start next week. (The target is 10-11 full time equivalent Well Child qualified nurses.)

The average unanswered call rate to Healthline was 24.1 per cent.

Dr Tuohy said the Ministry and McKesson were concerned about the unanswered call rate to Healthline - the result of more calls due to winter illness and the initial advertising campaign but strategies were in place to boost staffing levels to meet demand.

With the number of Well Child nurses on target for the beginning of October and a new targeted advertising campaign kicking off next month the number of Well Child calls is expected to increase steadily.

The television and print advertising campaign will be targeted at parents and caregivers to further promote the combined service. Additional material such as fridge magnets and leaflets will be available through health professionals.

ENDS

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