"NHS 111 Service"

About: Care UK

(as a relative),

I called the NHS 111 service recently as I was extremely worried about my husband. He had been suffering with a painful tooth for a couple of days. On the third day when I came home from work he appeared to be quite unwell - he had a high temperature, was shivering, sweating and had a high pulse rate. I am a healthcare professional and was concerned that he was becoming septic. Being aware of the appropriate pathways of accessing care I called the NHS 111 service for advice - I ended up calling them THREE times!

Call 1: The first call handler went through the script and advised that my husband needed to be seen within the next six hours and that there was an out of hours dental service that we could access. She put me on hold and transferred me through to them. I was just beginning to give them my husbands name and date of birth when the call cut out and the line went dead.

Call 2: At the beginning of the second call I explained the situation to the call handler and asked that I be transferred to the out of hours dental service. This was her response: "I can't transfer you, they will call you back. " I explained that I didn't think they had my number as the call had cut out. She said that she couldn't find a record of my first call on the system so would need to go through the questions again, she said this was probably because I had come through to a different call centre! After assessing that he needed to be seen I asked could she please now transfer me to the out of hours service. She said, with a very sarcastic tone: "Well they managed to speak to you once didn't they, of course they have your number, you'll just have to wait for them to call you back, they are very busy you know. " I asked again if she would please transfer me as I was extremely worried about my husband (whose condition seemed to be deteriorating) and I had been told that he needed to seek help tonight. She put me on hold. When she came back she told me that the out of hours dental service was due to close in 20 minutes so she couldn't book him in or transfer me and that instead she had made him an appointment at our local walk-in centre within the next 40 minutes. I asked her would there be someone there who could give him the appropriate treatment and (after a long sigh) was told, "He should be able to see a doctor who will give him some pain killers that is all he needs. " I explained again that he did not need pain killers, he was septic and that if that was his only option I would have to take him to our nearest A&E. She said "Well, I've helped you all I can, I've made you an appointment, he can't see a dentist tonight. " At this point, knowing that she was not going to listen to me I said thank you and ended the call.

Call 3: I immediately made a third call to the service. As before, I explained that I had called earlier and that my husband needed to be seen as an emergency by the out of hours service, I explained that I had been put through to them once but that the last call handler had said that they were now closed. I told him how concerned I was about my husband and that I knew he needed to be seen. He put me on hold - when he came back on the line he said that there WAS an out of hours dental service operating and gave me their number! I thanked him for his help.

I called them and got my husband an appointment at 2350. The dentist agreed with me that he was becoming septic and was querying admitting him. She treated an access and commenced antibiotics - we went home and he is now fully recovered.

I do not normally complain but feel really strongly about the service I received that evening. I am a senior clinical healthcare professional and recognise the signs of sepsis. I was looking at my husband, knowing that if he was a patient of mine I would be acting to treat him, and knowing what treatment he should have. I knew that his condition at that time did not warrant a 999 call so followed the referral process that I advise patients to use, expecting to receive a professional, high standard service.

I work for the NHS and always treat patients and relatives with kindness and compassion. I would never, ever speak to a relative the way the second call handler spoke to me and would have serious concerns if I overheard any of my staff talking to members of the public in this way - I thought she was rude, sarcastic and completely dismissive of what I was saying to her. I was reluctant to tell her what I did or that I could tell what my husband needed but when I eventually told her she kept tutting and sighing - then when she told me that in her experience he only needed pain killers I felt so angry and frustrated. What is her experience? In my experience my husband is developing a sepsis and needs urgent treatment to prevent him deteriorating yet I am told I am wrong and that she knows what he needs. She left me feeling frustrated and helpless, if that is how she made me feel how would her manner leave a member of the public feeling?

The first and third call handlers were professional, kind, calm and put me at ease. I felt that they were listening to me and shared my concerns.

It seems to me that these calls should be screened to address these kind of issues - I would hate to think that anyone else would be treated the way I was.

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