Drinking fluids is particularly important for vulnerable groups such as young children and the elderly.NHS Direct has launched an online health and symptom checker for people suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting.
Over the last decade, it has played an important role in the improvements in patient care in the NHS.The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has analysed the data for NHS Direct's call volume and found it is consistently high enough to suggest the "beginning and continuation of periods of norovirus activity nationally".Separate data from the HPA shows there have been 91 suspected outbreaks of norovirus in hospitals since the summer, 74 of which have led to ward closures.The Department of Health confirmed that NHS Direct, which is used by 27,000 people a day, would be replaced by 111 when the new non-emergency number is introduced nationally.NHS Direct provides expert health advice and information to callers, as well as out of hours support for GPs and dental services, telephone support for patients with long-term conditions, pre- and post-operative support for patients.He is aiming to get 100,000 signatures for his petition - a figure which Prime Minister David Cameron said should trigger a Commons debate. "I've been inundated with messages on Twitter and Facebook from people who are appalled that the Government wants to axe NHS Direct and replace it with a cheap, inexperienced call centre," Mr Prescott said."Replacing trained nurses with degrees with people who've passed a 60-hour medical course is just madness."People have tweeted me how NHS Direct saved their lives, helped their babies and provided professional reassurance."During the last election, Cameron said on his famous airbrushed posters 'I'll cut the deficit not the NHS'. "So, as Cameron promised Commons debates if a petition reached 100,000, I'm calling on people to stand up and save NHS Direct." The petition, which can be found at calls on the coalition Government to "think again and Save NHS Direct for the good of the nation".In November, NHS Direct received a total of 17,700 calls about these symptoms, which are most often caused by norovirus.It is the highest number of calls per month since March and is in line with expectations for the time of year.