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 down.

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 staff.

There is no need to travel to India to experience this.

Sarah Grierson

North Yorkshire.


"111 saved my nine-year-old son's life." 

NHS case study 1

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 Chester-Le-Street.

"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 ok. 

"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 Sonia.

"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 son's life."

"At the time I just put this down to him playing up - I certainly never thought it was anything to be overly concerned about.

"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 hours.

"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


 NHS case study 2

STRUGGLING to get a deep breath postal worker Karl Purves, 27, of Darlington, clutched at his chest as he felt it tighten once again.

An asthma sufferer from the age of 15, Karl recognised the symptoms of the onset of yet another attack and reached for his brown inhaler.

"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 Karl.

"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 progressed.

"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 Karl.

"The nurse took me inside, sat me down and got me an inhaler straight away.

"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 hospital.

"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 once.

"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 advice?

"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 pm.

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 prescription. 

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.


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