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to to tell you to call 999, rather than 111, if you think you can get away with it?

(77 Posts)
AlbertaCampion Thu 11-Apr-13 16:03:09

My diabetic DF was admitted to hospital on Tuesday, after being floored by that horrible DV bug that has been going around. My family decided to call an ambulance for him after he became too weak to get out of bed, unable to control his bowel movements and less than lucid.

He was conscious, and not in any great pain, so at 9pm we called 111. We spent close to an hour on the phone to the dispatcher there, running through his symptoms etc., and were told to wait with him. At midnight, phone calls were flying back and forth - but still no ambulance. His condition was getting worse. We called 111 again and were told to call 999 and get him into hospital pronto.

So we called 999 - only to be told that because the initial call had been made to 111, the 999 chaps would have to speak to the 111 chaps and go through the notes and get back to us.

At 2 am there was still no ambulance, and his condition was continuing to get worse, so we got him out to the car (with difficulty), made him as comfortable as we could in the car and my DB drove him to the hospital.

He is still in the hospital, hooked up to fluids etc. while they continue to run tests. His blood sugar is all over the place, so they have whacked up his insulin too.

I know I may get flamed for suggesting that you should call 999 if it isn't a class A urgent priority medical emergency - but the truth is, 111 were bloody useless and I will now think very long and hard before calling them again. AIBU?

Sirzy Thu 11-Apr-13 17:54:44

*The ambulance they sent was already on the way to someone else, but they deemed my niece's situation more serious so it was diverted.

I felt very bad about this, but it was out of my hands.

My point is 999 is always so busy that they don't need people adding to it and wasting resources when it's not a real emergency.

YABU.*

that happened when I needed an ambulance for DS. Thankfully a local friend is a paramedic and he got on to the operator that we needed an ambulance NOW so they diverted one.

ChestysLonelyYoni Thu 11-Apr-13 17:56:10

YABextremelyU advising that.

If people ring 999 for non emergency stuff, people who actually need an ambulance will have to wait longer.

Stupidest suggestion I've seen for a long while angry

ceebeegeebies Thu 11-Apr-13 18:00:30

Sorry you had such a bad experience but how would you feel if, for example, your DF had a heart attack or one of your DC was choking and there were no ambulances available because they were all tied up dealing with non-emergencies because people thought it was easier to ring 999 for situations that didn't require an ambulance?

MammaMedusa Thu 11-Apr-13 18:08:40

I think you made the wrong choice to call 111 in the first place.

I have used 111, a couple of weeks ago, and it was very successful for us. We got the advice we needed, which was to visit OOH straight away, and when we got there our waiting time had been ticking down from the time I'd made the call. They also knew we had a contagious bug so had a quarantine area, etc, ready.

In my case, it was clearly not an emergency but I needed to know whether my child needed attention then or in the morning. They were good for that.

"too weak to get out of bed, unable to control his bowel movements and less than lucid" to me means a 999 call. 111 is an advice line, really, and you didn't need advice you needed an ambulance!

MrsDeVere Thu 11-Apr-13 18:17:47

I am not going to flame you because of your worrying experience.
But people should not phone 999 unless they need to.
Plenty have done it for far less reason than you have described though
OH was a paramedic and I worked in A&E for 6 years.
I would have thought you reasonable to call 999!

I phoned 111 last week to report a hate crime against my DS. The police came round within half an hour and were very nice.

My neighbours had called 999 against my son about an hour previously.

I can tell you who was the least popular out of the two of us (clue, it wasn't me they were pissed off with)

They took a dim view of her wasting their time with malicious calls and an even dimmer view when they realised what she was up to.

It is very unlikely I would have reported her without the 111 number. I wouldn't have called 999.

Hope you dad gets better soon.

dolallymum Thu 11-Apr-13 18:18:57

YABU.
Although difficult, you were able to deal with the situation yourselves and transport him to hospital in your own vehicle.
It really annoys me how people misuse the ambulance service, and don't stop and think that somewhere there is someone in much more need of that ambulance. Also the fact that depending on your local service there could only be 1 or 2 ambulances stationed close by. If they are called out somewhere else you need to wait for the closest available to get to you which could be miles away. Yet people don't stop and think about this and complain at how long they have to wait.
I give credit to all Ambulance staff and think a lot of the time they are very much taken for granted and they all do a fantastic job.
Sorry, rant over. blush

Sirzy Thu 11-Apr-13 18:23:31

I dont think calling 999 in this situation would have been a misuse of an ambulance.

The child who got an ambulance to a and e after falling down 2 steps and twisting their ankle is a waste of ambulance time not something like this

insancerre Thu 11-Apr-13 18:25:04

You should have phoned 999.
A diabetic who is weak and not lucid is an emergency

toboldlygo Thu 11-Apr-13 18:26:50

BurningBridges, I work for an OOH GP service which was briefly replaced by 111 - it lasted two days before it fell on its arse and we now have the contract back for a number of months.

The service I work for also uses non medically trained call centre staff to take incoming calls. We take all the patient's details and then have three options:

A 999 response according to a trigger list of symptoms (chest pain in people over a certain age, FAST positive patients, anyone unconscious or struggling to breathe etc.) The caller is transferred to the ambulance service who make their own decisions on whether to send a response or not, basically as if the patient had dialled 999 themselves.

Urgent triage - put into the triage queue for a GP to call back within 20 minutes. Again there's a trigger list for this.

Routine triage - put into the queue for a GP to call back within one hour. This is all other calls, no matter how mundane the problem.

The differences I can see with 111 is that you are not guaranteed to speak to a GP at any point. There is a loss of autonomy in favour of a logarithm or script. Under our current system this is not a problem despite using non medically trained call handlers (and to do otherwise is simply not an option - GPs and nurses should not be wasting their time or our money taking down patient demographics).

Our experience in those couple of days is that 111 took the calls, sat on them for 2-12 hours and then passed them through to us if they need a face-to-face consultation. At present we can arrange all of this in less than an hour. Home visits can be done in 1-4 hours. Appointments at primary care centres are available in as little as ten minutes. 111's intervention seemed an unnecessary step at best, a life-threatening delay at worst. They were not at all prepared - it took 20 minutes to get through to a call handler that first night and they were sending us totally incorrect referrals for patients 30 miles outside of our area, often by fax with no referral call so they could easily have been missed.

It was a shambles and I pity anyone in an area where it is currently operating, though I appreciate it may actually be an improvement for some not lucky enough to have an OOH like we do here. 111 was supposed to do away with these inconsistencies but it just seems to have dragged everyone down to a non satisfactory level instead of going for the gold standard everywhere.

toboldlygo Thu 11-Apr-13 18:31:57

MrsD, presumably you called 101 which is the police non-emergency number. 111 is for non-emergency medical problems, similar to/replacing NHS Direct and localised OOH services.

BOF Thu 11-Apr-13 18:40:12

It sounds like it was a medical emergency though- you were quite right to call 999. Diabetes can lead to dangerous consequences very quickly.

Very worrying that having called 111 first stuffed you up. YANBU.

renaldo Thu 11-Apr-13 18:45:23

111 is a shambles in my area
Could get thru for an hour a few Sunday's ago. My GP surgery urged me to make a formal complaint and I did.

Whatalotofpiffle Thu 11-Apr-13 18:51:35

I can't believe how harsh everyone is being! OP is complaining about delay in response due to 111 call being made. She did try and avoid 999 and required extra assistance when the situation deteriorated.

My grandad frequently needs 999 in what some people on here would not see as an emergency. He has random symptoms, rapid deterioration and no control of bowels. It is not safe to patient or relative to try and move them, get them downstairs etc in some situations. I would hate my nan to try and drive him herself!!

I don't think people should be so quick to encourage people to assess what is an emergency!!! Dialling 999 if you seriously think someone's life is in danger is the right course of action

MrsDeVere Thu 11-Apr-13 19:51:14

Oh yes , presumably I did blush

MrsDeVere Thu 11-Apr-13 19:51:44

I loved NHS direct.
I am sad its gone.

Thanks boldly - that's interesting to hear.

When DD had a head injury recently and started to go downhill, I rang 999 and said look we're dressed and have the car, would you prefer if we just went ourselves they said no wait for the ambulance which I think was the right advice with hindsight - the 999 operator knew best on that particular occasion.

In this area we also have a walk in centre and we can ring our GP's out of hours service. In a "hmm urgent" but not "arrghh emergency" I would use either of these, or wait till the morning, but never 111, I think someone said upthread its an advice line. And if boldly's insight is anything to go by, not even a very good advice line. sad

So I suppose what the OP is explaining to us is what happened to her, it worked out badly, and she would think twice before using 111 again. I agree. But I don't think for a moment she's advocating ringing 999 for minor issues - it sounds like her relative needed emergency admission to hospital. Common sense, surely?

WhenSheWasBadSheWasHopeful Thu 11-Apr-13 20:55:26

My experience of 111 was very different. I called at 1am as my daughter had croup and seemed to be struggling to breathe (wasn't quite bad enough to call 999 straight away).

Called 111 explained I was calling re my 2 year old. Operator immediately cut in and said "excuse me but is that noise your daughter breathing, I'm calling an ambulance" Ambulance arrived 5 mins later.

she was taken to a&e but no blue lights, she sounded a lot worse than she actually was

On the other hand when dh's grandmother fell and spent the night lying on the floor in her own waste we called 999. It took them 3 hours to come as we were not classed as an emergency (she needed help and could have broken her leg but wasn't about to die).

So on the whole YABU but it does sound like a hideous experience.

Alberta, I hope you are putting in a complaint.

VivaLeBeaver Thu 11-Apr-13 21:26:29

The only time I rang 111 they sent an emergency blue light ambulance. So if they think its serious enough I guess they can do it.

herethereandeverywhere Thu 11-Apr-13 21:36:50

I can understand the issue here. The issue is that at the outset we need to be able to self-diagnose an emergency - which is easy to do with hindsight but not necessarily at the time.

OP did what she thought was the right thing by "checking" the severity with 111 rather than automatically assume its a 999 situation - I have done this with NHS direct when deciding whether to take sick DC to emergency Dr or wait for an appointment.

This seems to have resulted in being caught in a circle of red tape/inefficiency/incompetency.

It seems strange that 111 cannot refer a case to 999 to dispatch an ambulance at speed but 999 can delay an ambulance dispatch in order to check notes with 111 confused

OP YANBU to feel as aggrieved as you do but I think you know you are BU to word your advice int he way you have.

yabu to suggest people bypass 111 altogether.

but its horrendous that when the situation deteriorated and you did need an ambulance that your prior call to 111 caused so much hassle over getting one!

i'm glad i'm literally 5 minutes drive from A&E, its quicker just to throw people in the car and hightail it over than to wait on the ambulance.

that being said, we also have an ambulance parking station at the bottom of our road so it would be just as quick to run and bang on their door too!

EMUZ Fri 12-Apr-13 00:40:09

I don't know what happened there with your call to 111. I know in our area it makes no difference if you have called 111 previously, become worried and ring 999. It could have been the call wasn't passed from 111 and that's why they wanted to speak to them, it could have been there were no ambulances available
To me (working with it), it's working almost the same as NHS direct did. I mean if you are worried then I'd rather you rang 999 and everything was ok rather than not doing it, people can be triaged
111 can refer (and very often do) to 999 and pass calls over. It shouldn't delay an a,balance dispatch because if you are on the phone to 999 that doesn't delay it, it is all computerised and so someone can be dispatching an ambulance while another person is talking to you

teacherandguideleader Fri 12-Apr-13 09:04:48

I find it so hard to know what is an emergency.

BF's father recently had a heart attack - definite emergency.

However, I still feel like a fraud for when I phoned 999 at 2am when I had meningitis - I'd been unwell a few days and hated calling for a headache. I often wonder if I should have just got a taxi. I'd phoned NHS direct, and they had asked me my symptoms - I was told quite quickly to hang up and call 999 - the ambulance was there in 6 minutes. After I was discharged, I got readmitted with complications (fluid leaking from around my brain) - I felt even worse about phoning the ambulance that time although I clearly was very ill.

diaimchlo Fri 12-Apr-13 09:25:12

My mother who is a type 2 diabetic also suffered the sam DV bug as OP's DF, she was in bed for 3 days extremely ill with exactly the same issues.

One night in the early hours she had ended up on the floor as her blood sugars had dipped too low, I called the GP out who came and explained to her that she needed to start eating small amounts and rest The following morning her carer phoned to say she had found her on the floor and that her sugars had dipped again, she had no recollection of falling at all. I went round and after looking at her dialed 999, explained what had happened, gave all health history, that she was still on the floor, that we were unwilling to move her due to shoulder and hip pain and informed them that her blood sugar at that time was 2.6. I was told that this was not classed as an emergency and to await a phone call in an hour or an ambulance no earlier than an hour. I was to say the very least less than pleased. We were lucky as an ambulance turned up within 5 mins and she was admitted to hospital where she still is now and the paramedics were brilliant.

So my point is that even if you phone 999 they do not come if they assess your situation as being a not an urgent emergency.

givemeaclue Fri 12-Apr-13 09:47:40

Yabu. If everyone did that then people who really need an ambulance, like your father, would have to wait longer. You should have got ambulance right away instead of all this faff, that is your fault not the nhs!

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