"Frustrating and inadequate experience of 111"

About: South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust / NHS 111

(as a relative),

I had to use 111 recently when I thought my husband might have had a mini-stroke. I rang 111 and spent a long time going through the call-centre worker's script from which she wouldn't deviate; when she had finished asking irrelevant questions she said she had done all the stroke questions so it couldn't be a stroke, but the out-of-hours GP would ring in a few hours time.

There is no possibility for a patient to talk to the out-of-hours GP, as used to happen, so it is impossible to talk to them directly for advice.

Fortunately for my husband the emergency GP rang back fairly quickly, said it was a stroke, and sent an ambulance which took him to the acute stroke unit. But no thanks whatsoever to the 111 service, which was totally inadequate.

I would urge the political parties to abandon 111, and at the very least revert to the previous out-of-hours emergency system: use of walk-in services for minor incidents or NHS direct phone calls, both staffed by nurses, and contact with local emergency GP services which used a triage system over the telephone, determining whether you went to the GP or the GP came to you.

As I've said, there is no system for speaking to an emergency GP now, other than having to go through 111. No wonder A&E numbers are up, and are pushed up by 111 being dangerously incompetent.

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Response from Sara Coburn, Patient Engagement Manager, Governance, South Western Ambulance Service Foundation Trust

Good Morning Trogopogon

Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us. I hope your husband is recovering well.

I apologize that your experience did not meet your expectations. I hope I can address some of the points you have raised here.

The questioning you referred to is our triage system; this is the questioning that is used by our call takers to understand the needs of the patient/someone close to the patient who is calling for help. The answers given to the questions posed will determine the route taken to deliver care and/or advice. We use the same triage system for our 999 service calls and NHS 111 calls. This system is widely used by similar services and was devised by clinicians to ensure that our service can provide the right care patients.

In addition to the NHS 111 service, you are able to utilise to your local Minor Injury Units and NHS Walk-In centres for advice and care. I apologize for not be able to give you information about your local facilities; as your story is anonymous I cannot identify the most appropriate services. However this information is available on the NHS Choices website, www.nhs.uk.

It is always our aim to deliver the highest quality of care to patients when they need it most. However, we understand that we do not always get it 100% right. We would welcome the opportunity to look into the events surrounding your husband's care on this occasion, but to do so we will need some more information from you. If you would like us to this please may I ask you contact our Patient Experience Team on either swast.patientexperience@nhs.net or 01392 261 585 and a member of the team will be happy to help you further.

Thank you, again, for taking the time to provide us with feedback.


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Response from Peter Brain, Volunteer, Healthwatch Devon

Dear 'Trogopogon'

The comments and responses on the web-site of Patient Opinion are shared with us at Healthwatch.

Thank you for responding through Patient Opinion to what was a difficult time for yourself and your husband. Please take up the suggestion of approaching the Patient Experience Team and also our own service.

We are building a picture of the provision of services in Devon and these comments should help the NHS and other providers develop and improve their services.

If you wish to discuss any health or social care issues with us in confidence, including seeking advice or information about services, please call 0800 520 0640, or email info@healthwatchdevon.co.uk or go on-line to www.healthwatchdevon.co.uk.

Yours sincerely

Peter Brain


Healthwatch Devon is the consumer champion for Health and Social Care in Devon.

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