Dial 111 – what’s the point?

I went out for a lovely dinner last night only to realise when I was leaving the restaurant at 10pm that I had left my keys in the office. Unable to gain access until 8am the next morning, I had effectively locked myself out.  I knew I could find a bed to sleep in – thanks Nathalie, much appreciated – but I have to take various pills and potions at night and going without is generally an unpleasant experience.  So safely installed at Nat’s I rung NHS Direct

to see if I could get a repeat prescription.  NHS Direct is no longer available in my area so I was told to ring 111 –  why they needed to know my name, telephone number before telling me to call a different number is anybody’s guess – why didn’t they ask where I lived first?.

On the NHS Direct webiste you’re encouraged to “call the NHS 111 service if you need medical help fast, but it’s not a 999 emergency”. I felt I fitted that description so I rang them. I explained my problem: I had locked myself out; there were certain drugs I really needed to take that night – as soon as possible in fact; were they able to help me?

I was told I would have to speak to a doctor in order to get a repeat prescription and one would ring me back within two hours.  It was now 11pm. Two hours came and went and no-one had rung – why was I not surprised?.  I called them again – “We’re extremely busy tonight – wait another 15 minutes and someone will call you”  – busy? really? how original and how could they be so certain someone would be available in 15 minutes.  As it turned out they couldn’t and 20 minutes later I was back on the phone again.  The man I spoke to this time said he been working there for over a year and this was the busiest night he’d ever had. Funny that, I didn’t think the 111 number had been operational for a year.  I laid it on a bit thick – I was becoming ill as a result of not taking my drugs and did he have any idea how long I would have to wait.  He suggested another 45 minutes … was he hoping I might have fallen asleep or keeled over by then?  This time had done him a dis-service as within a few minutes the phone rang and the doctor, who was at pains to tell me the lateness of the phone call wasn’t her fault, then retook the details I had already given.  She went on to say she could fax a prescription to a chemist and I could go and pick it up. However, according to her records, there was only one all night chemist in the whole of London …one! She had no-idea how far away it was from me or even if they’d have what I needed in stock and eventually said she thought my best option would be to call an ambulance and go to A&E.  I’d effectively waited nearly 3 hours to be told , “No, they couldn’t help me”. So much for the new 111 service – I’ll stick with 999 and A&E if you don’t mind.

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