By Humphrey Carter IN the New Year, making a doctor's appointment in the Balearics is going to become easier, cheaper and faster than ever. At the end of February, people will be able to make an appointment on-line, by telephone, by going to their local surgery or by sending an SMS text message to the Bitel Innovacion Tecnologica call centre which currently handles 50 percent of the Balearic health service calls - over the past five years it has handled an estimated 10 million calls.

The new call centre's services were unveiled yesterday by the Balearic government's director general for Telecommunications, Antonio Manchado and the director general of Ib-Salud, Josep Pomar.

The Ib-Salud boss said the new services are being offered to make life much easier and user-friendly for the general public. What is more, the SMS text message service will benefit the deaf who are unable to arrange an appointment over the telephone.

State-of-the-art telecommunications technology has been installed at the two main calls centres in Palma and the ParcBit technology park and the new system will also be available in five different languages with a total of 115 people manning the phones.

By calling 902 079079, operators will be available speaking Castellano, Catalan, English, French and German. What is more, the call centre will be operating from 7am to 9pm, Monday to Saturday.

Pomar explained yesterday that Monday mornings are always the busiest but the new system will limit calls to an average length of just ten seconds at a cost of just 10 cents - thus making the system cheap, quick and easy and the call centre is linked to Ib-Salud's 50 medical centres and 103 basic first aid units. “People will no longer have to waste time trying to get through to their local surgery or medical centre with all the lines busy,” said Manchado said during his visit to the main call centre. “The four new options will revolutionise access to the health system for thousands of users,” he added. Pomar added that Bitel is constantly updating and improving its services and in the New Year will be able to handle well over two million calls next year. The new service is due to start coming on line gradually next month.