A few months ago, I started to get a pain down my back on the left-hand side. I went to the doctor who said he would run a few checks, however the pain got steadily worse over the course of the day.

By about 6pm that evening I realised I needed to do something about it. I rang 111 and, after answering their questions, was advised to wait at home. I was told I would be contacted by GP services within two hours.

About half an hour later, the pain was unbearable and it soon became apparent that I could not wait two hours for help. This time, my husband rang 111 but again I was advised to stay at home and wait for a GP to help. We did not accept this advice and my husband talked to a clinician who did then tell him I should go to accident and emergency.

Upon arrival, I was diagnosed with a kidney stone – and was treated in hospital for the next couple of days. When I got home, I thought about things and couldn’t understand why, when my husband had called for the second time, I was advised to stay at home despite the levels of pain I was experiencing.

What I did next

I wrote an email to the customer feedback section at South Central Ambulance Service and got a very prompt acknowledgement. They promised that they would look into the matter and get back to me within 25 working days. In the event, I had to chase the response, but when I did I got a really full letter. The reply said that although the first call was ok, the second call had not reached the required standards. The 111 call handlers use an assessment tool to make decisons about what advice to give. Basically the way my pain was scored did not work with the assessment tool.

What NHS 111 did next

As a result of my call, I know that the call handler I spoke to has had some further training. The training department is helping keep call handlers and clinicians aware of this issue. The matter has also been passed on to NHS Pathways, which provides the clinical tool used by 111. This is for assessing, triaging and directing contact from the public to urgent and emergency care services. They are looking to see whether any changes are needed. This could take some time because of the strict processes any change has to go through. However, any change could have an impact at a national level. This tool is used to handle over 14 million calls annually nationwide.

The main thing for me is that other people should get the right advice as soon as possible. I know that my feedback has helped to make sure this is the case. I have been really impressed that NHS 111 listened to what I had to say and are making changes as a result that will help other people.


Can you relate to Jenny’s experience? You can find helpful advice on how to complain to the NHS on their website.

Published on 22 Mar, 2018 (updated 31 Oct, 2019)

This post's tags

Leave a Reply

Your contact details

If you would like us to contact you about your comment, please provide your details below. You can also contact us directly.


Please review our data protection policy. By completing this form, you agree that you have read and understood the privacy information provided, and confirm you are over 18.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to the Healthwatch Bucks email newsletter