NHS patients will be assessed by robots under a controversial 111 scheme to use "artificial intelligence" to ease pressures on Accident & Emergency units.
More than one million people will be given access to a free app which means they can consult with a "chatbot" instead of a human being.
Hospitals across the country are struggling to cope with unprecedented demand, which has left thousands of casualty patients waiting on trolleys.
In the last week, growing numbers of hospitals and ambulance services have declared critical incidents - even though most operations have been stopped for the last month.
The new measure is part of a national drive by health officials to "digitise" the health service, while speeding up help for minor complaints to reduce strain on services.
The company behind the scheme said it would save the health service "substantial" money and time.
But leading doctors and patients' groups last night expressed fear that the experiment, due to start later this month, is too risky. They raised fears that serious conditions could be missed - or casualty units end up swamped - by too great a reliance on automated systems.