The widow of a cancer patient, whose husband died last week, has told Sky News how she spent almost an hour waiting on the new NHS 111 non-emergency phoneline trying to get him help.
Kim Green, of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, said much of their final hours together were spent on the telephone trying to arrange – unsuccessfully – for a nurse to come and administer his drugs.
Mrs Green said: “The horrible thing is, I should have been sat next to him holding his hand, reassuring him help was on the way, and I couldn’t because I was on the phone frantically for the best part of an hour trying to get somebody to help him, but I couldn’t.
“It’s just awful, absolutely awful. I don’t know whether that made his anxiety levels worse or not, I don’t know, but it certainly didn’t help him.”
She said while she did not blame the system for her husband Jonathan’s death, her last moments with him would have been more peaceful.
A spokesman for the NHS 111 service in Buckinghamshire said: “This is a very sad case and our sympathy goes out to the family.
“We take the responsibility for the safety and well-being of our patients extremely seriously.
“When a concern such as this is raised about the NHS 111 service we undertake an incident review involving experienced clinical staff. This allows us to identify clear actions so that lessons can be learned and acted on quickly and thoroughly.
“We would urge the family to contact us directly so that we can discuss this case further with them.”
The deaths of three people are under investigation in connection with the 111 non-emergency phone line, according to a report.
The general practitioners trade magazine Pulse reported that at least 22 possible “serious untoward incidents” (or SUIs) related to NHS 111 have been reported since the launch of the service.
These include three where a patient died, the magazine has claimed.
Two of the deaths occurred in the East Midlands, and one in the West Midlands.
The deaths reportedly include the case of a 47-year-old who died from a suspected overdose.
That death occurred after relatives contacted NHS 111 requesting mental health assistance, Pulse reported.
A further 19 possible SUIs have been recorded by providers or commissioners, the magazine added.
Rolled out across most of the country last month, the NHS 111 service is for people urgently seeking medical help or advice but who are not in a life-threatening situation.
The service was introduced to replace NHS Direct in England and is meant to ease pressure on emergency 999 call centres.
NHS England said it could not verify the data reported in Pulse, however, it issued a statement in response to the magazine’s report.
“The safety of patients must be our paramount concern and NHS England will keep a careful eye on the situation to ensure NHS 111 provides not only a good service to the public, but one which is also safe,” the statement read.
Earlier this week, it announced a review of the 111 service.
But Clare Gerada, chairwoman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, raised concerns about the free-to-call advice line.
“It is extremely worrying that there is still so much uncertainty around the delivery and reliability of the advice provided by NHS 111 in some areas.
“We are also concerned that patients are losing confidence in the new service before it is even fully up and running.
“We call on NHS England to provide more reassurance about its effectiveness and ability to deliver the necessary standards of care for all patients using the service, right across England.”
Mrs Pooja Virk from Hornchurch, Essex, contacted Sky News after her nephew was taken ill recently. His ears ached, he had a high temperature and was feeling breathless.
She said: “I called my doctors and got the answer message to call 111.
“I explained his symptoms and the lady on the other end said ‘oh take him to the chemist, not life threatening symptoms’.”
When she got to the pharmacy she says the pharmacist laughed at the advice she had been given and said he needed to get urgent medical help.
Mrs Virk took him to a local hospital. She said: “They checked him straight away and said you are so lucky you brought him in on time he is suffering from an asthma attack.
“If you had left it any longer you would have been rushing in an ambulance with him!”
She added: “Soon there is going to be a very bad public clash with the NHS if it’s not sorted.”
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Article source: http://news.sky.com/story/1086730