"3 hours wait and then I went to A&E"

About: Harmoni / NHS 111

(as the patient),

I received a letter from Harmoni asking about my experience of using NHS 111 - very brave must say. I'd blogged about it hours after the incident so I thought I'd copy the blog post by way of responding to their request ... so here goes.

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 to my friend, much appreciated - but I have to take various pills and potions at night and going without is generally an unpleasant experience. I have Type 1 diabetes and Parkinsons Disease. So safely installed at my friend's, I rang 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 website you're encouraged to "call the 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.

This time I had done him a disservice 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 next time if they don't mind.

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Response from Amanda Mayo, NHS 111 Service Director, Harmoni

Thank you for posting your experiences on this website.

I would really like to look into the issues you have raised and would be grateful if you could email me on harmoni111.feedback@nhs.net with your name and contact details to enable me to thoroughly look into your case from a NHS111 perspective and also all the other services that you were involved with last night.

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