Campaigners reacted with fury last week at Tory plans to scrap NHS Direct.
The helpline gives health advice to worried callers, as well as information about how to access accident and emergency services and out-of-hours doctors and dentists.
The government wants to axe the 24-hour service and replace it with a cut-price version where calls will be answered by a non-specialist “call adviser” with as little as 60 hours’ training.
The new service is being trialled in the north east of England.
Currently, some 40 percent of NHS Direct workers are qualified nurses.
Health professionals are worried that staff at the new helpline will be far less capable than the current workforce.
“Like those working for NHS Direct, almost everyone in the health services uses computers to help with patient diagnosis and treatment. But experience really matters,” says Newcastle GP, Gerrard Reissmann.
“Sometimes you need to have the confidence to override a computer’s assessment of a patient.
“You are much more likely to do that if you are a qualified nurse with at least three years training.”
Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs has thrown his weight behind a campaign to keep open maternity services at Salford Royal in Greater Manchester.
The famous “left winger” described proposed cuts as a “disaster” and urged parents to sign a petition to save the service and to attend a rally this Saturday.
Health chiefs want to centralise all maternity and children’s care in the area—reducing the number of units from 12 to eight by 2012.
Campaigners renewed their fight to save Salford’s maternity services after the government promised to review the decision.
Protest to save Salford maternity services, Saturday 4 September. Assemble 2pm, Buile Hill Park, Salford M6 8GL