NHS 111 - Case studies
111 user praises paramedics
after wasp bites her tongue
The following appeared in the Middlesbrough Evening Gazette in
September 2013, in response to a previous letter from a reader who
claimed patients would have a better chance of being seen quickly
at an A&E department if they travelled to India.
I wonder if your reader (Sep 9th) has
personal experience of an A&E ward in England? I visited one
recently on a Bank Holiday after a wasp and I decided to sip from a
Pimms at the same moment at our local carnival.
A rapidly swelling tongue is very alarming, so a quick call
to 111 brought an ambulance within ten minutes. I was given the
necessary injections by the paramedics, and then driven to James
Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough under constant monitoring.
The A&E department was busy, but I was seen almost
immediately and at regular intervals, until the swelling went
The ambulance staff and the duty staff at the hospital could
not have been kinder or more reassuring.
I do feel that we hear of the problems that occur - they
make good headlines - but rarely of the routinely excellent
treatment that is given day in and day out by calm and capable
There is no need to travel to India to experience
"111 saved my nine-year-old son's
PICKING UP the phone to call NHS 111, mum of two Sonia Ellis had
no idea that the call she was about to make would not only change
her family's life forever.
"When my nine-year-old son started showing certain
symptoms I knew there must be something wrong," said Sonia, 39, of
"At first I thought he was being bullied, or that he was worried
about something at school, but after checking with the teacher I
found out that everything was fine.
"He'd also being asking for a lot of drinks. We'd be out
shopping and within ten minutes of him finishing a drink he would
be asking for another, saying he was thirsty again.
"I never thought for one moment that the symptoms could be a
sign of diabetes. As a parent and working mum you sometimes
go around in your own life bubble, not really expecting anything to
go wrong, and this was a real bubble bursting moment.
"The call handler could obviously tell that I was frantic with
worry and she did her absolute best to calm me down, explaining
what diabetes was and assuring me that he would be
"She also told me to keep an eye on his fluid intake and to take
him to see his GP as soon as possible."
After being seen by a doctor at his local surgery, her
son was immediately admitted to hospital where doctors
confirmed Type 1 diabetes.
"He has been incredibly brave and as a family we have had to
learn a lot about diabetes to help him manage his illness," said
"I was told at the hospital that if I hadn't called NHS
111 his condition would have got steadily worse and that he
would have eventually slipped into a coma.
"I can't thank NHS 111 enough; they really did help to save my
"At the time I just put this down to him playing up - I
certainly never thought it was anything to be overly concerned
"My mum had told me about 111 and I'd rang it before, when the
children had had a temperature, so I knew they would be able to
advise me," said Sonia.
"The call was answered in about three rings and the female call
hander on the line took all of my son's details and
symptoms and said that someone would call me back within two
"It was only about five minutes later when the phone rang again.
This time the call handler was on the line for about half an hour
confirming all of the information, asking me to check his
temperature and going over and over his symptoms once again."
It was then that the call handler advised Sonia that her
son needed to see a doctor as soon as possible and that he was
showing all of the signs of having Type 1 diabetes.
"I was absolutely stunned," said Sonia.
111 First Class for postal worker Karl
during asthma attack
STRUGGLING to get a deep breath postal worker Karl Purves, 27,
of Darlington, clutched at his chest as he felt it tighten once
An asthma sufferer from the age of 15, Karl recognised the
symptoms of the onset of yet another attack and reached for his
"I knew that my Ventolin was running very low and I think that
it had been playing on my mind most of the day," said Karl.
"It was about half past eleven at night and I'd got myself so
would up about the fact that I didn't have a spare one that it was
making my breathing problem worse.
"I'd never called NHS 111 before but I had heard about it," said
"I can't remember whether it was from a radio advert or if I'd
read something in the newspaper but what I did remember was that it
was for fast medical help that wasn't a 999 emergency."
Picking up the telephone Karl called 111 and within just three
rings was speaking to a female call handler.
"The lady on the other end of the phone took all the details of
my symptoms and then asked me to sit up straight and take slow deep
breaths," said Karl.
"I explained that my inhaler was just about empty and that my
breathing had been getting steadily worse as the day had
"She asked me to sit still and said that she would call me back
in five minutes - exactly five minutes later the phone rang."
Karl was asked if he was able to make it to Darlington Memorial
Hospital as soon as possible. After calling a taxi, he was met at
the entrance to the hospital's urgent care centre by a nurse.
"I couldn't believe that it was all happening so quickly," said
"The nurse took me inside, sat me down and got me an inhaler
"The staff monitored my breathing and gave me a check up to see
what may have triggered the attack.
"They also suggested that I ask my GP for two inhalers in the
future so that I'd always have a spare - which is something I
always do now.
"I felt the NHS 111 call hander did the best she could possibly
could have done with the information I gave over the telephone, and
I was very impressed with the speed that I was seen at the
"The next day when I went back into work I told a lot of my
colleagues about what had happened.
"A lot of them didn't really know about the NHS 111 service but
they do now and I'm sure if they ever need to, just like me,
they'll use it in the future."
111 saves man County Durham man with
swollen tongue following allergic reaction
A MYSTERIOUS allergy left John Fairbrass with a badly
swollen tongue and fighting for breath.
It was 11 o'clock at night, he was unable to speak and
mum Patricia Fairbrass' was worried that if she left him until
morning he might asphyxiate.
"I was really worried and it was so late I didn't know who to
turn to," recalled Patricia, of Esh Winning.
"John, now 40, has learning difficulties because he developed a
brain tumour when he was three. After eating something, his tongue
was coated and badly swollen on one side. I had to do something;
then suddenly I remembered NHS 111, which I had seen on a leaflet
"The call handler was very good. She agreed that it could be an
allergic reaction and that we should go to hospital. Within 20
minutes she had an ambulance to us and we went to the University
Hospital Durham where they gave him adrenaline and steroids, and he
was back to normal by about 4am.
"John is now having tests to see what triggered the allergic
reaction and I am just so grateful that 111 was there to help as we
didn't know how best to deal with the situation.
"When it is late at night and you are scared it is so reassuring
to have a knowledgeable voice on the phone to calm you down and
provide a good solution to your problems."
With that in mind Patricia found herself using the service again
when she was struck down with a virus.
"I simply can't afford to be ill because my husband John is also
disabled. He suffers from vascular disease, has lost a leg and has
had a quadruple heart bypass.
"I found myself with a terrible fever that left me feeling sick
and with the shakes. I contacted 111 again and the call handler
advised me on the best thing to do.
"Someone rang me back very quickly and again they were very calm
and reassuring, telling me how to help myself by drinking fluids
and keeping cool. I was given an emergency appointment with my GP
and proscribed some tablets to take away the sickness.
"I think the NHS 111 service is absolutely marvellous. How many
people can you ring for help that late at night for expert
"The call advisors are calming and knowledgeable. It is such a
quick process; I was amazed really. Looking after my husband and
son, it is such a comfort to know that they are always at the end
of the phone."
Middlesbrough woman says 111 big improvement
on previous out of hours experience
A personal account from a patient in the Middlesbrough area:
I would like to feedback on my experience of using NHS 111 and
how it was a vast improvement on my previous experience of using an
out of hour's service.
I recently called the GP out of hour's service, which
involved an initial telephone call with an operator. After a wait
of about an hour, a GP called me back, and I had to repeat the same
information I had previously told the operator.
The GP decided I needed to be seen and said that someone would
call me back to make an appointment. An operator called me back
after about 15 minutes and gave me an appointment for 9:30
When I arrived at the centre I had to wait for 25 minutes for
the GP to see me, again repeating the same information to this
second GP, before being issued with a
In August 2013, I decided to call 111 for a similar reason.
I spoke to an operator who asked me some questions which
initially resulted in being advised to take anti-histamines. I
mentioned the pharmacist I'd seen had suggested antibiotics would
have been better, so the call handler put me through directly
to a clinical adviser. They agreed I should go to the out
of hours GP, and I was offered an appointment for 12:20.
I arrived and saw the GP, who didn't ask me to repeat
unnecessary information. I was given a prescription and was
finished by 12:30.
The 111 call handler had told me that if I did feel worse later in
the day, I should call back. Unfortunately, this was the case.
At 6:10pm I called back and was advised I should see the GP
again. I was offered an appointment for just 5 minutes time
later (which was great) but as I couldn't make that appointment, I
was offered an alternative.
I would like to commend the staff at both 111 and the GP OOH as the
service I received was immensely better than previously, and
despite the unnecessary media coverage, I can say that I have
nothing but praise for the 111 service and have been actively
promoting it with family and friends.
Please convey my praise and thanks to the staff involved.