I had cause to use the 111 NHS non-emergency service yesterday, when whatever is wrong with me seemed to get worse, with periodic pins and needles and numbness in my hands and feet. My GP had said to come back to him immediately if anything changed. As I am in Lincolnshire, I am in the new 111 service trial area; in fact, the 111 service is now my GP’s Practice out of hours number, replacing the traditional “on call” doctor at evenings and weekends.
He then preceeded to ask me a series of questions which he was obviously reading off a screen, and most of which had nothing to do with my condition.
This stuck me as daft, as in the time it took him to ask a list of questions about whether I had a heart condition, cancer, back pain, bleeding sores, leg pain, rectal bleeding etc. (the answer to all of which was “No”), I could have told him that (a) I recently had an inconclusive DVT scan following a long haul flight (b) that I was being treated for a prolonged leg infection with antibiotics. But he was not interested in hearing about this, as it wasn’t on his screen.
On being told that the pins and needle had for the moment gone (I had already told him that they only came on when I was resting) he decided that I was in no immediate danger, I did not need to talk to a medically trained person, and that I should see my GP within 3 days. The pins and needle started again a few hours later.
I later called back and managed to speak to a nurse, but only by falsifying my answers to the first level responder to get put through – i.e. I had to sound sicker. Once through to the nurse, I was able to tell her my history, and she asked me different, more relevent questions. Once again, she said I should be ok to see my GP next week, but she also told me things to watch out for that – should they occur – I should take myself straight to A&E.
When you live on your own, there are certain ailments – particularly circulatory ones – which seem a lot scarier than they might be if you are with somebody. The nurse gave me some reassurance and common sense. The first level responder did none of that, either time.