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Drugs: Advisory Services

Volume 472: debated on Monday 25 February 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the number of calls to the national drugs helpline which have been unanswered as a consequence of staff shortages in each year since the helpline's inception. (186789)

The national drugs helpline ceased in England in March 2003 and was replaced by the FRANK helpline in April 2003.

The Central Office of Information (COI) advises that FRANK has received 2,114,533 telephone calls since its inception as at 31 December 2007. A total of 1,818,497 of those telephone calls were answered.

COI advise that overall there are no problems regarding staff shortages. Calls which are unanswered are as a consequence of callers who may hang up before speaking to a live adviser or who are routed to an interactive voice response system.

Anticipated demand can be exceeded owing to unknown media activity—something relating to drugs appears on television or in the national daily press and the FRANK helpline number is quoted. In these instances, staffing levels are increased to cope with the peak according to their availability. However, despite this, there may be occasions when response performance varies.