Weekly Poll – NHS 24: Breathing Space

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 15 August 2022, we asked a question about Breathing Space, a free, confidential, phone and webchat service for anyone in Scotland over the age of 16 experiencing low mood, depression or anxiety.

Please note that this is a snapshot of the views of our membership and does not reflect a policy stance of Disability Equality Scotland. If you plan to reference the findings featured in this report, please contact us in advance so that we are aware of this.


Question 1. Are you aware of the Breathing Space telephone service delivered by NHS 24?

  • Yes – 46% (28 respondents)
  • No – 54% (30 respondents)

Question 2. Are you aware of the Breathing Space web chat service that can be accessed via the Breathing Space website?

  • Yes – 18% (11 respondents)
  • No – 82% (49 respondents)


We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

Breathing Space

Breathing Space advisors come from a range of mental health, counselling and social work backgrounds.

The service aims to provide:

  • an alternative and easily accessible ‘first stop’ service
  • assistance at an early stage in order to stop problems escalating
  • empathy, understanding and advice through active listening
  • hope when none exists
  • direction for those who do not know where to seek help

Telephone Service

Breathing Space advisors come from a range of mental health, counselling and social work backgrounds. You can speak to a Breathing Space advisor on 0800 83 85 87. If you use a textphone you can contact Breathing Space on 18001 0800 22 44 88.

The Breathing Space telephone service is open:

  • 24 hours at weekends (6pm Friday – 6am Monday)
  • 6pm to 2am on weekdays (Monday – Thursday)

Respondents who had used the Breathing Space telephone service praised the helpfulness of advisors for providing appropriate support and guidance.

“Really helpful when I wasn’t sure about how to cope with ongoing anxiety issues.”

“Very satisfied with someone to listen to you.”

“The service was very helpful in reducing my anxiety and suggesting ways to move forward.”

“I had never heard of Breathing Space until earlier this year when I was receiving support from a psychologist after referral and was given details about Breathing space and Samaritans. I did use Breathing Space and found them to be very supportive and helpful. I appreciated what they did for me at that point in time.”

“I have not used it but know people that found it useful. They were very positive about their experiences.”


You can also contact Breathing Space through the webchat service available at www.breathingspace.scot. The webchat displays as a button, that appears in the bottom right corner of your screen on all pages, that says ‘Available to chat’.

Webchat is available:

  • Monday to Friday, 6.00pm to 2.00am
  • Saturday and Sunday, 4.00pm to 12.00am

Respondents recognised the importance of the webchat as an alternative to the telephone service. One respondent suggested having an online ticket system which would allow online chats to recommence with the same advisor if it disconnects. It was also suggested that information on how to access the webchat service should be clearer given that the chat icon only appears when it is available.

“It is a great alternative for someone like me who struggles picking up the phone to call when I am low. I would like to suggest that you have the option to get a code assigned when you chat to be able to continue at a different point without having to explain everything again, thus taking up most of the hour you have.”

“Although I haven’t used webchat, I would like to make a comment about this as it would be a service I could find useful. Breathing Space is such an important service and I do know people who have used it and found it literally life-saving. I asked my partner to explain things on the website. If I actually wanted advice I doubt I wouldn’t have done this and given up. She had to explain to me that the reason I can’t see a webchat icon is because it isn’t open yet – I couldn’t understand why there wasn’t an icon. If I was distressed I would not stand a chance at figuring out the website. Mental health issues are common in people with learning disabilities and every effort needs to be made to ensure that the services are accessible to all people and that groups are not accidentally excluded. The suicide rate of people with learning disabilities is frighteningly high and having services that are not fully accessible to this and other groups is just going to mean this gap increases.”

“I like the idea of a web-based chat service alongside the call centre. From checking the website, I think it needs to be clearer how to access the chat service.”

Alternative Formats

Respondents provided suggestions on how to improve the Breathing Space service and increase engagement with disabled people. This includes ensuring that resources and contact methods are available in a range of accessible formats.

“My one gripe with the service is that although it does well in providing accessible content and BSL which is much welcomed it fails to provide information in accessible formats such as Easy Read. I personally found the information on the website very difficult to follow due to my comprehension difficulties and wouldn’t be comfortable figuring it out on my own. The website is written at the level of an 11-12 year old which is slightly higher than the average reading age of people in Scotland (9).”

“Due to suffering from arthritis, I type very slowly and get timed out. I am too disabled to use telephones or webchat, but I can use emails. What we need is a 24-hour email service.”

“Sounds like a good idea. However, people like me who have hearing issues-the phone is not always useful. Other forms of media should be used, if possible, i.e., Zoom or similar as then we can lip read.”


The majority of respondents were unaware of the Breathing Space service and therefore suggested that NHS 24 must look at promoting the service wider across various networks and communication channels.

“This looks like a very valuable service; however, I didn’t know it existed! NHS needs to think of how to get the word out so that more people can use it.”

“I have heard the name but didn’t know what the service offers until reading this email. It sounds very useful so more work to promote it the better.”

“I’ve heard of Breathing Space, but I didn’t know it was run by the NHS.”


Respondents reflected on the importance of Breathing Space and praised call handlers for providing appropriate support. When reflecting on the webchat functionality, it was suggested that an online ticket system would allow online chats to recommence with the same advisor if it disconnects. Respondents also commented on the importance of ensuring that Breathing Space resources are available in a range of accessible formats, including Easy Read. In addition, increasing promotion across various networks and channels will help to increase awareness of Breathing Space.