NHS 111 Service

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.

The person I spoke to – who admitted to having no medical training – was not interested in listening to a (brief) history of my condition, but only wanted to know my immediate symptoms.

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.

6 Comments

  1. April 10, 2011

    Hope you feel better soon.

    The ‘old’ NHS direct worked the same way.

    I phoned with an asthma attack that I didn’t think was urgent enough to go to A&E but wanted to check. Because I had a frozen left shoulder and trapped nerve in my left elbow as well as gasping for air, I hit the ‘she’s having a heart attack call an ambulance’ screen.

    Unfortunately, as it doesn’t take account of exisitng conditions the system only works if:
    you have exactly what the system expects; or
    you have enough knowledge to get though it.

  2. Working through a script, and insisting on sticking to it, is known to be a terrible (but cheap) way of doing computer support if anything even slightly unusual comes up.
    Humans and their health problems are far, far more complicated and variable than computers and computer problems. So vastly less suited to script-following.
    But it’s *cheap*.

  3. April 10, 2011

    If at *any* point you would feel happier being in someone else’s home, with someone there to check on you, just call.

    Just call.

    Hugs and hope that your symptoms bog off, and quickly.

  4. chris
    April 11, 2011

    Got to see a doctor this morning, and he seems to think I am ok. He says my infection seems to be getting better, and the other symptoms I was concerned about were a combination of the heat over the weekend, 3 weeks on antibiotics, and anxiety. So it is a case of keep taking the tablets, and don’t panic.

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