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I'm a 111 call handler AMA

32 replies

111callhandler · 09/05/2019 13:59

I see lots of threads where people say how crap 111 is. I thought maybe people wonder what goes on the other end of the phone...

OP posts:
Sonicknuckles · 11/05/2019 21:13

Do you enjoy it?

JellycatElfie · 11/05/2019 21:16

Do you have any medical qualifications?

OldUnit · 11/05/2019 21:17

What is the most common problem/call you take?

Ju5tAgirlstandinginfrontofaboy · 11/05/2019 21:19

Do you have any training for real life scenarios such as first aid?

Thatsnotmyotter · 11/05/2019 21:19

Do you ever disagree with what the algorithm is telling you to advise the patient to do?

Dinosforall · 11/05/2019 21:19

It sounds as though the call handler is reading from a flow chart - is this actually the case?

MakeLemonade · 11/05/2019 21:21

What’s the most ridiculous call you’ve received?

BastardMozzies · 11/05/2019 21:21

Thank you for being kind, listening and telling me what to do.

Mishappening · 11/05/2019 21:23

Why do you go through a long list of questions, only to say someone will ring back and that someone asks all the exact same questions over again?

SD1978 · 11/05/2019 21:24

I do a similar role in a different country. Good luck with the questions! It's a pretty thankless job at times!!

indianbackground · 11/05/2019 21:28

Are the answers from the 111 online process likely to come to the same result as calling?

111callhandler · 11/05/2019 21:30

I'm at work now and on a break so will answer what I can before I have to go back!

The job is OK. It's repetitive but the callers are mostly nice.

Dental pain is the most common. There's a real shortage of NHS dentists in our area

No medical qualifications at all.

We did some first aid training but nothing extensive.

I do disagree with the algorithms sometimes but we have nurse advisors walking the floor who we can consult with to change the outcome.

It is a bit like a flow chart I suppose - you select a symptom and go down a series of related questions.

I'll have a think on the ridiculous question!

You're welcome bastard. Most of the callers are lovely and it's a pleasure to help them.

Break over - I'll be back!

OP posts:
stillworkingitout · 11/05/2019 21:35

Are you confident in the algorithm’s ability to deal with the very young? I’m unconvinced after waiting 8h for a call back for a days old baby with a severe infection. If I hadn’t followed my gut and gone to a&e we’d have lost him. The system just didn’t seem to cater for his problems. The call handler just kept asking me if he was responding to his name (which we hadn’t decided at that point).

FrankiesKnuckle · 11/05/2019 21:37

111 are the bane of the ambulance services life.
Not your fault personally obviously, but really! It's the algorithms - belly ache after eating gone off chicken, well it's obviously a triple A! Disregard the 90yo #nof on the floor for 4hrs... gah - been a long assed set of shifts 😕

I know you deflect a great deal of other shit away, for that thank you - I for one could joe listen to the shit that some people spout in the phone!
(Just have to deal with it in person instead 😁)


FrankiesKnuckle · 11/05/2019 21:38

I've had too much 🍷 😁

JellycatElfie · 11/05/2019 21:51

Yes, I should’ve said thank you too. I’m a nurse so it can be frustrating when 111’s algorithm tells me one thing when I know what needs to happen. The call handlers have always been so lovely and they really do try their best. I don’t think 111 is the bane of the ambulance services life either - the algorithm needs to be over cautious else the nhs would be slaughtered for ‘missing ‘ something. The people to blame are those ringing 111 when they need to apply common sense.

teddy275 · 11/05/2019 22:01

Thankyou. 111 has always steered me in the right direction and the call handlers have always been very calm, friendly and reassuring - even at times where my anxiety has gotten the better of me and I've not been very calm myself!

FrankiesKnuckle · 11/05/2019 22:05

@JellycatElfie working a 12 hour shift on an ambulance when all you get is bollocks 111 calls when there are calls holding for genuine medically unwell/injured patients then yes it's the bane of our working lives.
IME 111 over triage an awful lot.
Sadly 999 can under triage.
Public education and self care is the way forward for the worried well.

I've had a crap set of shifts so just venting.

winesolveseverything · 11/05/2019 23:16

Frankiesknuckle... you are right...

111 was brought in to alleviate the workload of 999- instead it has tripled it...

Just the other day, we were responded on blue lights and sirens to someone who had taken their evening tablet 2 hours early... 🙄
Another person who had a mouth ulcer..

Common sense does not prevail anymore.
And nobody wants to take any responsibility for themselves... The entire out of hours system needs overhauling.

I could rant all night but also just had a crap set of weekend shifts so will shut up now....

FrankiesKnuckle · 11/05/2019 23:21

@winesolveseverything 🍷

When you hear the constant broadcasts for proper jobs and you're stuck on a cat1 bellyache - one job at a time lovely 😊

ThisMustBeMyDream · 11/05/2019 23:28

As a midwife on the triage phone line and dealing with then as they walk through our doors, 111 cause me so many problems. Sending a woman with sinusitis to a maternity unit because she ticked the 'having a headache box'. She had a headache which worsened on standing and sitting, and all the other sinusitis symptoms. She was sent to triage and wasted many hours unnecessarily. We can't issue prescriptions for that kind of issue. She needed a GP appt! Instead she was sent to a totally inappropriate service who ultimately could do nothing to help.

Also, when you just want an out of hours GP appt and have to ring 111. Just ARRRRGHHHHHHHH.

111callhandler · 11/05/2019 23:48

Mishappening - I can see how that can be frustrating. Call handlers 'prioritise' the call so we do have to ask a few questions to do this. The answers are recorded but I'm not sure what happens when a nurse opens the call and why they have to repeat it. I know they have their own algorithms to run through and I expect our system isn't sophisticated to populate them with the call handler answers.

Sd1978 - it can feel like that. I'm pleasantly surprised by the nice comments here, I expected a kicking if I'm honest!

Indian, I think they are but I've only experimented with one symptom so I can't say for sure. I don't know the official answer - I'll try and find out.

Still working - that wouldn't have happened with our service. A baby that young would only have a callback within 20 minutes. It's very cautious with newborns. Just a few questions and the outcome of a high priority callback. I'm glad you followed your instinct and I hope your little one is well now.

Frankie I hear that a lot. I'm fascinated with how other 111 services work. I can honestly say none of your examples would happen here. Perhaps because we are part of the ambulance service. In fact we get their green calls sent through to us regularly. We get a lot of people trying to demand an ambulance and when we refuse they ring for one themselves only to get diverted back through to us!

Thismust. We are encouraged to question and seek advice so don't stick doggedly to the outcome if there are obvious indicators that it's incorrect. Of course not even our nurses can diagnose over the phone though so if there's a headache that could be sinusitis but hadn't been diagnosed I guess that's a hard one to call?! I don't know.

Thanks to jellycat and Teddy for your kind words. I actually listen to my colleagues dealing with some tough calls on a regular basis - it's not uncommon to have to talk down/keep talking to someone who is suicidal. I think we do a good job and that's not often recognised so thanks for noticing!

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stillworkingitout · 12/05/2019 05:49

Thanks OP. He’s fine, and he’s 3. He had a uti but the questions were geared up to older babies and children. Really the fever of 38.5 should have been enough for them to tell me to get him to a&e. In the end I had a call back at about 7am (8hrs) later where someone (a dr) gave me a bollocking about how I should have just taken him to a&e anyway. By that time he was already on IV abx. This is on the south coast of England. In 2016.

My other brush with ooh was for a child with lymphadenitis. 111 were helpful then but the ooh gp insisted viral. 36h later again on IV abx and in the early stages of sepsis. That wasn’t 111s fault though.

TheFatberg · 12/05/2019 05:54

Do you ever see any Mumsnet threads about someone calling 111 and hope you get the call?

Decormad38 · 12/05/2019 06:29

My DH rang up once because he needed an out of hours appointment and it was the only way he could get one. The call handler told him he was having a heart attack. Im a nurse and said no way is this a ruddy heart attack! He had originally rung up with a migraine. Question is: do you get challenged about your over simplistic algorithms?

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