"Using the 111 service"

About: NHS 111 St George's Hospital (Tooting) / Accident and emergency

(as the patient),

I was very impressed with the 111 service and the subsequent services I used as a result of the advice given. On a saturday late afternoon I noticed that my thumb was red and swollen and had been for a couple of hours. As I had never experienced anything like this before and I would have been unabale to book a doctors appointment for that day, I decided to call 111 as I had no idea whether I should leave it until the morning or Monday or whether it was more serious. I got through to 111 straight away and spoke to a polite and helpful advisor who asked me a series of questions about my health problem. The advisor told me that I needed to have it looked at in the next 6 hours and as I was hesistant to do anything, as it was around 4pm or 5pm on a Saturday, they arranged for a doctor to call me to give further advice. I received a call from a doctor within the hour and the doctor confirmed that I needed to receive antibiotics that day, so as it was too late to visit a GP they booked me into the closest out of hours doctors service, which was at St George's Hospital situated in the A&E department.

The earliest appointment they could get me was a few hours later at around 9pm, however shortly after the appointment was booked I received a call from somebody at St George's Hospital A&E department saying that they had received my notes and they advised me to come down to A&E earlier as the closest pharmacy shuts before my appointment, the woman I spoke to said that although my appointment wasn't until later if I came earlier I should be able to be seen earlier. I thought it was very thoughtful and also helpful that she had thought to call me to tell me that. Especially as I needed to get public transport to the hospital on my own in the evening so I wanted to avoid travelling further for a pharmacy if possible. I headed down to the hospital shortly after and when I arrived at A&E, reception told me to sign in with the out of hours doctors service which is a little different to A&E I think. I didn't have to wait too long to be seen and the doctor prescribed me a strong course of antibiotics for 7 days and advised I come back if the swelling and redness spread further, although also advised it would get a little worse before it got better.

It ended up that I had cellulitus in my thumb that was likely brought on by an insect bite which I am also sensitive to. I ended up having to go to a 24 hour pharmacy in the end but it wasn't too far away from the hospital and I was grateful I could start the course that day. The next day the pain and itchiness in my thumb got worse and I also developed a bruise on my thumb and swellinig in my little finger. I rung 111 again and they got a doctor to call me like last time. The doctor thought it was unusual that I had developed swelling in the finger on my other hand but also thought it wasn't too concerning but booked me another appointment at the out of hours doctors to be sure. So on the Sunday I went back to St George's and saw another doctor who said that the antibiotics were working and that I needed to just continue taking them and that taking antihistamines alongside the antibiotics would help to reduce the burning and itching sensation which had gotten wrose.

I took the antibiotics 4 times a day for a week and by the end of it my thumb was back to normal. I think 111 is a fantastic service, if it hadn't have been available I probably would have left my thumb to the next day or the monday as at the time I didn't know what cellulitus was or about the risks of leaving it untreated, and as it was a Saturday night I didn't want to wait in A&E for what at the time I thought wasn't a serious enough problem. I know now that cellulitus can develop into a more serious problem and that I needed to start antibiotics ASAP. I was very pleased with the fact 111 had doctors on call to speak to you and that they were also able to book appointments for you at the out of hours doctors service which meant I waited in A&E for 30/40 minutes the first time and about an hour the second time. The staff at St George's were also very helpful and friendly and I felt they really cared about their patients. I also think it's great that 111 can potentially prevent unnecassary visits to A&E which should in turn reduce waiting times, and that it can also refer those that need to visit a further service that otherwise wouldn't have.

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Response from St George's Healthcare NHS Trust

Thank you for the comment on the patient centered care that you have received from the woman who rang you to advise you to come to A&E early. It is good to read that you did not have to wait too long to be seen and the advice you received about your visit from both areas helped. We are very pleased that the service you received from St. George’s Hospital was positive.

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