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Telephone-based or web-based access to medical help

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      16.12.2011 13:31

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      dont bother calling them in an emergency

      I've called NHS direct a few times, both my myself and my boyfriend. I had to wait a long time for a call back and when my boyfriend was ill I actually had to call them again as he got worse, I was then put through quite quickly and they were concerned about meningitis and called an ambulance (luckily it was just a migrane/virus) but the ambulance arrived within 2 mins (as we live next 2 the base haha).

      The nurse i spoke to on the phone asked the relevant questions and i qas quite impressed with how they treated him. When I found up about myself i didn't find them helpful at all and their advise was what i was already doing and just had to wait it out!

      I've heard missed reviews about NHS direct, mostly positive apart from the long call back time, roughly 2-5hrs which is a long time when you dont feel well and want adivce asap! I know at this time of year is a busy time with everyone having vomiting bugs, coughs, cold, chest infections etc....

      I also dont think it is a free phone number its an 0845 number, which I think it should be an 0800 number!

      Overall it's good to have the service available but with the waiting time its probably quicker to call the doctor if your unsure what to do, but they can put your mind at ease.

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      23.02.2011 21:02
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      Not a very confidence inspiring first encounter

      I called NHS Direct at about 3am as I had a terrible pain in my teeth, eye, ear and throat and needed some advice on what I could do in addition to the codeine I was already taking and the clove oil I was rubbing on to my gums.

      After the initial wait for the operator, I was asked loads of questions about my symptoms and the operator seemed really thorough, even repeating my answers back to me, then he said I should take painkillers. I explained that I was already taking painkillers but that the pain was getting to be unbearable but he could not give me any further useful advice. He did, however, give me the details of the out of hours dentistry for my local area which were not very helpful either.

      Im sure that NHS Direct is useful in some instances but unfortunately, my first experience using them was not very impressive. Once the operator had established that my symptoms were not life threatening he then proceeded to ask me about my ethnic origin! I was so frustrated by this point that I was crying. What could my ethnic origin possibly matter at a time like that. I don't think that I would be in a rush to call them again if I was ever in desperate need.

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        16.03.2010 23:12
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        Great service for when you or your children are poorly

        NHS Direct - 08454647

        I recently had to use to NHS Direct because my youngest daughter was very ill and obviously I was quite worried. The service I received was top notch and now she is 100% better, I feel compelled to write a quick review based on my experience.

        At the beginning of last week my youngest daughter (age 16 months) started vomiting, over and over again and didn't stop for 12 hours. The next day she seemed to sort of recover, the vomiting had stopped but she didn't seem to be able to stay awake, so I took her to the Doctors, who was very nice, but basically said I was over-reacting and that she was just poorly, nothing else. So then when I got her home, she projectile vomited all over me. And she perked up again. Then the next day she seemed ok, just a bit whiney but no vomit.

        The following day I had to take myself and my kids to live at my Mum's because our boiler had given up, and when we got there, my daughter was sick again, and again the following day, interspersed with loose bowels, and a lot of whinging and crying. So by this time, it had been going on for 5 days and I was now in panic mode, but because I was at my Mum's house I was not near to my Doctors, and the weekend was also fast approaching, so my only two options were to see how she went over the weekend, or ring NHS Direct for some advice. I did the latter.

        After a few recorded messages (perhaps lasting 1 or 2 minutes) I was put through to a nice young lady who immediately asked a series of questions relating to the problem in hand, if I was ringing on behalf of myself or someone else, contact phone number, address etc. Then she asked me specific questions about my daughter, her age, what the symptoms were, then she asked me other questions such as whether she was alert or not, or any rashes etc (the usual questions I think when dealing with a young child). She really did calm me down, and then she told me that she was going to contact a nurse who would then ring me back within half an hour.

        10 minutes later the phone rang and it was the nurse, who was also really lovely and asked me the same questions again, but also asked more specific questions relating to my daughter's condition. She also gave me a lot of advice, and also set my mind at rest saying that this sort of thing was rife at the moment. The advice she gave me included keeping my daughter hydrated with sips of juice or water (obvious I know but I suppose she has to say it in case I am totally incompetent), she also recommended Diarolyte, a soluble powder which helps to keep them more hydrated, and she also recommended foods to give her to try and make her bowel movements a bit more solid.

        So once we had come to the conclusion that my daughter was not in fact 'seriously' ill, we made the decision to take her to the Doctors just to get her checked over (again). So the nurse recommended that I ring my parent's Doctors because with me being a temporary resident at their address, I would be able to get an appointment as a temporary resident. Failing that she gave me a telephone number for the out-of-hours emergency doctor service, which in the end I didn't have to use because I managed to get her an appointment straight away at the Doctors. It turned out that she was fine, well not fine, but just suffering from a particularly harsh and extended bout of sickness and diarrhoea.

        So I am extremely happy with the service I received and I wouldn't hesitate to use NHS Direct again, they seemed to have all the information that I required available at their finger tips, they were also very professional and managed to keep me calm and collected when I was probably very stressed and on the verge of a nervous breakdown....

        In the past I have avoided using them because I always thought they would just tell me to go to the Doctors without offering any other advice. But now I have used them I think they are a very valuable resource and in the future I may ring them before ringing my Doctor!

        Recommended for good advice and information.

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          16.11.2009 12:17
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          Service which is helpful to me

          Call the NHS when you have a slight pain and for anything worse do not call them and go to the doctors!Sometimes you get pains which you feel you have no need to visit the hospital for.

          Advice and help is available through this service as they help you out over the phone. NHS Direct's service is very good and they have a team of helpful nurses on the phone who give you advice on what steps to take when you have slight pains.

          Trying out their service I was happy with them a lot. They made sure the pain I felt on my back was given the right advice for. Nurse goes through a lot of information before getting down to sort the problem out.

          The information does help you and tips are given on how to cut the pain. Never call them you have a serious pain as they will be no help then.Ringing the service over the past few years they have been really helpful.

          They can even get you some appointments for your teeth sorted out to. I find this service on the phone to be very friendly and helpful. NHS Direct is the right service to use when you have a small pain and do not require treatment but just advice.

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          14.09.2009 05:17
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          If youre not seriously ill then ring nhs direct - dont waste the dr's time or A&E

          Its a call centre based help line manned by call handlers and nurses, you're ill, you ring them, give them some personal detail and details of illness and depending on how ill you are, you wait for a call back or are put straight through to a nurse - its that simple.

          The person initially answering the phone will take your address details, the details for where you currently are, not where you live. They will then take the name of the patient, DOB etc, then they'll try and rule out something serious and life threatening such as heart attack, meningitis/stokes. Now depending on how ill you actually are, you will either be passed to a nurse or a nurse will ring you back. The call back may be 1 hour, 2 hours and on occasions when they are very busy (and I mean very busy) you can expect to wait several hours.

          The nurse rings you back, asks some more questions then starts to assess you based on your symptoms, they will ask some questions that are not even relevant, but what they are trying to do is rule out something serious. The nurse will then tell you what to do, if you can manage the symptoms at home and how, or if you need to go to A & E or the doctors. Sometimes, if you need the doctor, they will pass your info onto the GP service so you don't have to go through it again - bonus.

          Now - let me try and clear up some of the "ignorant" comments made by many people I know and others on this site.

          NHS Direct isn't an emergency service, if you're an emergency use the appropriate service, don't be a moron and complain when you're initially assessed and told you have to wait.

          They ask you you're address and location details so that they can get you emergency response teams (999) if you suddenly need them. It's for your own safety and well being people, do you or the person you have gone to A & E with moan when they ask you for it? No - you just shut up and give it to them.

          The people on the end of phone are not mind readers, they can't see you and don't know how old you (some conditions affect different age groups differently and age can be a factor in many other ways.)

          I know many people that get frustrated having to answer what they call silly questions, and some people who have written reviews here say the same thing, but you gotta remember that this isn't an emergency service, its not A&E or your emergency doctors, its meant for non life threatening minor problems, its meant to take pressure off A&E departments and doctors.

          I reckon we all need to give the nhs a break, I admit its not perfect but they are only trying to help us. They work stupid shifts, don't get paid much (talking about nhs direct staff here) and have to put up with lots and lots of abuse.

          How do I know all this? I have family and friends that work for nhs direct, I have also had to use them several times. Whilst I agree that sometimes it's a long time to wait for a call back, ive had to wait 9 hours once, you gotta remember that if you're ok to wait after an initial screening, then you can't be seriously ill. If you were, would you even agree to wait several hors in the first place?

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            24.08.2009 11:10
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            Ok for quick advise but I'd use the NHS walk-in-centers in future.

            I had to call NHS direct yesterday as my 2 year old son had a temperature of between 38 and 39 degrees, he was up and down in himself sometimes tired, sometimes full of energy.

            I couldn't remember the number, I knew it was 0845 something, and that it was a short number of just 8 digits but I had to ring 118118 to get it. (It is 0845 4647)

            When you get through there is a welcome message followed by 5 minutes of gumph about swineflu...this is especially annoying if you have a poorly child as it seems like an hours worth of gumph...

            Next there is a automated menu, press 1 to listen to more gumph about swine flu, press 2 for bla de bla de bla. etc. Option 3 is to speak to a real life person. I chose this option.

            The guy on the phone was friendly but got confused when asking about addresses, I was calling for my son from my mothers house and he asked for the address I was calling from, then struggled when I said it wasn't our home address!

            He asked a lot of questions to rule out specific illnesses such as meningitis, some of the questions are difficult to answer regarding a baby, such as can he put his chin to his chest??? Trying to get a crying poorly toddler to do this was nearly impossible. Eventually, when he established it was only the temperature I was really concerned about he said a nurse would call back within 2 HOURS!!!

            About an hour or so later, with crying child draped over me I tried to dash to the ringing landline phone only to miss the call from the nurse. I assumed they would probably try once more after about 5 minutes so waited by the phone. I realised they weren't going to call back when I noticed an answerphone message saying 'we tried to call, if you still need help call back.'

            Needless to say I was less than impressed, there was no direct number left for me to call back and so I would have gone back to the switchboard and answered all the questions again only to have to wait another 2 hours for the nurse to call, and to hope to God I wasn't in the loo when the phone rang or the whole cycle would begin again!!!

            I decied to take my toddler to the walk in center nearby, where we were seen in half an hour. They were fabulous and took his temperature (39.1) a urine sample, an ear test and throat examination. Gave him nurofen and let us stay for half an hour in a private room to see if he improved. He did so we were given calpol and nurofen and advise and we left feeling much better.

            I have used to NHS direct service before and have found it more useful but really the advise is usually the same, monitor and call the doctor if symptons worsen.

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              01.08.2009 11:46
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              Recommended

              I very rarely get ill which i'm very grateful for except for the odd headache or upset stomach which dont stop me dead in my tracks. Recently I began feeling really ill and couldnt get an appointment with my Doctor until the middle of next week. Its always a nightmare trying to get booked in to see a Doctor and is really frustrating. I've never rang NHS Direct before but I was constantly dizzy & nauseas and kept thinking I was going to pass out so I just needed some piece of mind.

              I rang and spoke to a lady who took my name, address, contact number and my date of birth. She then asked me what my symptons were and asked me to hold for a sec while she input the information on a record card. I was on hold for about 10 seconds when the lady I was talking too came back and said that I needed to talk to one of the Nurses but at the moment they were all busy. She told me that one of the Nurses would ring me back in the next few minutes and no later than 10 minutes.

              About 5 minutes later one of the Nurses rang me and after asking me a few security questions to make sure I was who I said I was she ran through a list of questions. The questions were based on the information I'd already given on the first call. After I'd answered all the questions she recommended that I go see my GP. I told her that I had booked an appointment but couldnt get to see him till next week. She suggested that I contact the surgery again and tell them that a Nurse at NHS Direct has recommended seeing a Doctor that afternoon, alternatively she gave me a contact number for a walk in centre at the hospital.

              I wasnt able to get into see my Doctor that afternoon but I did get to see a Nurse. She was able to tell me what was wrong with me and was also able to get me a perscription from the Doctor in between his other patients.

              The Nurse at NHS Direct was really helpful and ever so nice, she gave me plenty of advice and if I hadnt rang them I know I would still be waiting for my appointment now.

              The NHS Direct telephone line is open 24 hours a day and has Nurses on call throughout. They can be contacted on 0845 4647 and they also have a website www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk. The waiting times maybe a little longer at the moment due to the outbreak of swine flu but when you first ring there is an automated voice that filters you through to the right section. I did get through very quickly so the time delays didn't effect me.

              Whenever you need health advice and information or your feeling unwell ring the NHS Direct helpline, they are really helpful and can put your mind at ease if you are really worried.

              This is my first and only experience with NHS Direct and I would recommend them to anyone feeling unwell, who cant get to see a Doctor or friends and family of people who are unwell.

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              20.07.2009 20:16
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              Service is one I respect a lot

              I made a phone call to this service from the Nhs just last week! I had a stiff back and also a stiff neck. It took not even a minute to get through to some body on the phone. It was not a nurse though on the phone just somebody who gives you some advice. You are not put through to a nurse on the phone straight away unless your pain is major.

              They are friendly on the phone and listen to your pains and give you some advice. They do advice you that if your pain does get worse go to the hospital. I was put forward to a nurse one hour later. A nurse ended up calling me back and took information of me.Her tips were helpful and saved me a lot of time rather than going to the hospital. I managed to speak to the nurse whose tips were helpful and saved me time!

              I think this service is very friendly on the phone and can save time of going to the hospital. If you suffer a minor pain I think you should call this number as it saves time for patients in the hospital. The nurses remember can not see you and can only offer advice. Never expect their help to always work but for me the tips did actually work well for me!

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                29.06.2009 23:33
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                NHS Direct save lives. Simple as.

                I wasn't actually intending to write a review on NHS Direct. I am simply a former employee that was nosing at what people thought of the service.

                Some of the scathing reviews and downright bull on here have really got my back up and I feel I need to voice my opinion, especially since I was an employee so know both sides.

                Okay, most know what NHS Direct is, it is a 24 hours free telephone and internet based communication method to help people with health information and queries.

                My first issue is reading a review where someone had basically slated the service based on what they had read in the paper. If you have not experienced the service first hand - don't review. Simple as.

                I worked for NHS Direct up until 2 months ago (I left due to my Grandfather being very ill) and would take on average 60 calls per evening. I was one of the Health Advisors, which is the first person you speak to (the 'fresh graduates' as people on here have called us). We undergo very good, thorough training and are reviewed throughout out employment.

                The first moan people had is that we ask pointless questions... okay let me explain as I can understand how it may seem to someone who is ignorant of how the system works.

                The Health Advisors ask your name, age, date of birth and current location and postcode as if you are having a serious problem, they can get you an ambulance straight away and they have to relay this information to the ambulance service.

                A lot of people don't know this but you can actually say you would prefer not to give the information, you are well within your rights. However, if you call with a stomach ache and do not want to give your age it means they do not know if you are pre or post menopause etc. Some illness are more common in certain ages and sexes so it is always going to be a more accurate assessment the more information you provide.

                After that they ask your main symptoms. They will then ask further questions on the symptom to determine the severity of the issue.

                This is called prioritising. Lets say you ring up with a painful foot, that you have told us you can stand on. That has established that it is not excrutiating as you would not be able to stand on it. Meanwhile you have a man that is struggling for breath and has chest pain. Who is a bigger risk and a higher priority? Obviously the gentleman who is struggling for breath.

                The less severe your symptoms, the longer you will wait for a call back. To me that is logical. The longest I have ever known someone to wait is 15 hours, and according to some of the other staff that was the longest they had ever seen a call back time; so I must disagree with the review where someone claims they waited 48hours for a phone call and 'could have been dead by then''. That persons' call would have also been assessed to ensure it was not urgent. It does not make sense, if the call back time was only 15 hours in our busiest period ever. Sure, it was probably urgent to the caller but that does not make it a MEDICAL EMERGENCY. That is what people need to realise.

                Depending on your symptoms the Health Advisors will refer you to your GP if you require seeing face to face, A&E, dispatch an ambulance or refer you to one of our nurses.

                It has been PROVEN that we HAVE reduced the pressure on out of hours doctors and A&E departments.

                I cannot stand the way people seem to think NHS Direct are idiots. The nurses there are very knowledgable and well trained and the 'fresh graduates' have saved lives. Slate them all you want. THEY HAVE saved lives and that is an amazing feeling. I should know.

                It is also a very emotional job and I have been in floods of tears on several occasions (am actually in tears writing this thinking back to some of my experiences) and when you get callers that are rude to you it is awful.

                I have had calls where I have had a hysterical screaming mother on the phone because her baby was choking and turning blue. Suicidal callers standing there on the other end of the phone with a knife in their hand to slit their wrists. Someone who is having a very apparent heart attack. People in sobbing fits and do not have anyone to turn too. Screaming mums with their son choking on his own vomit.
                It is NOT an easy job and anyone who wants to argue otherwise is not worth my oxygen.

                If a problem is assessed as extremely urgent then it is the job of the Health Advisor to call 999 and have an ambulance sent out. It is the most scary feeling in the world. You constantly worry "am I going quick enough? Am I going to be responsible for someone's death"

                When you have calls like the above, you then get someone else call going beserk at you because they have have an assessed low priority problem and are waiting for a call back. It does take a lot to not bite and say "ok Madam, I will get the nurse to hang up on the man who is about to kill himself and get her to call you straight away about your sons papercut"

                That being said the Health Advisors do understand that you are in agony, but medically if you have an earache then that is not an emergency, but it is still hard to hear someone crying in pain and knowing that there is nothing you can do as you have to follow protocol. They do feel bad that there is nothing more they can do.

                I personally have never ever been rude to a caller, you may not be aware but NHS Direct do also offer other services such as locating you an NHS Dentist, GP or answering general questions such as "Can I take nurofen with paracetamol?" They treat every call the same, even when I had a call from a 14 yr old lad asking me if he was pregnant after having gay sex (with all his mates howling with laughter in the background) I remained professional.

                I did actually have people call in to speak to a manager to tell them about the excellent service that I personally gave, which is just lovely and gives you a huge boost.

                I also am a user of the service. I have called before with general questions, and one particular one that sticks in my head was when my friend was leaking a clear fluid from a wound on her back after having surgery. I spoke to a lovely nurse who advised (after I gave the full information) that she was quite possibly leaking spinal fluid and needed to get back to hospital as she could end up brain damaged. My friend went back to her consultant and this 'assessment' was totally and utterly correct.

                I am making myself even more irritated so I will sum up...

                I would never say that any service is correct 100% of the time, there will always be one or two that slip through the net. However, the media do love to portray NHS Direct in a negative light. They do not mention the statistics of the people we have helped. Oh no, they only ever report the controversy.

                Also, do try to keep in mind that the people at NHS Direct are exactly that. PEOPLE. They have feelings and they work very hard doing their best.


                1. NHS Direct do make it very clear on ALL calls that they do not diagnose as they are not with you and therefore cannot examine you. They assess your SYMPTOMS. Let me be clear on that. SYMPTOMS. So if you miss out a symptom that is important that is not their problem. This can be proven as every single call to NHS Direct is recorded to ensure the staff are not doing anything wrong.

                2. You do have the choice to not take the advice given, if a nurse has said 'do not worry, your child is fine' but you are gravely concerned that they have not given you the right advice then SEEK OTHER ADVICE.

                3. If NHS Direct refer you to your out of hours GP, then it is not their fault if the GP takes ages to get back to you. Nor is it their fault if there is not an emergency dentist in your area.

                I was a huge fan of the service before I was an employee. Seeing it as an employee made me appreciate it even more.

                People do not praise enough - if you receive good service then let them know. They do not hear it often enough!

                FYI - not a graduate.


                DISCLAIMER. Please be advised that I am not a spokesperson for NHS DIRECT and speak of my own experience of the service. This is my opinion and experiences only.

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                  27.06.2009 01:06
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                  A great service I will definitely use again!

                  A couple of weeks ago my little brother was staying with me for a few days, when he and my husband went off to the park, they were having a kick around and my brother fell funnily on his leg and he couldn't walk properly, and it was looking funny and he was in pretty bad pain. I was about to take him to A&E not liking to take chances and thinking that something could be wrong with it, but then I thought of NHS direct, I have their number in my purse but have never used them before.

                  But this time, it was either sit in Warrington General for 6 hours to possibly be told it was a simple sprain, or make a quick phone call to the NHS direct helpline, so I took the latter option not wanting to sit in hospital unneccesarily wasting the doctors time as well as our own!

                  So, we phoned the number, you first get put through to a registrar, someone who takes down all your details and the patients details (if your not the patient yourself), they then ask some basic questions about the injury or illness, with me it was an injury and so they asked me things like where on the body it was, and if there was anything majorly wrong (i.e. major blood loss, or unconciousness) presumably so that they can send an ambulance to you as this is really quite more major than a sore leg....

                  Once they have established your not actually about to die, they then pass on the details to a trained nurse, and you put the phone down and told they will phone you back. When he said this I just thought oh god, it will be hours until I hear back from them! But no, just 5-10 minutes later we got a call back from them with a nurse on the end of the phone, once again we went through all the symptoms, he asked me lots of questions about the colour of the injured part of the body and the state of the patient, this call took around 10 minutes, and in the end he established that there was nothing wrong and that it was more than likely a bad sprain which could be very painful but wasn't anything to worry about, told us that if it got worse or the patient felt faint etc to phone back. But it saved us a long trip to hospital, and saved the hospital unnecessary costs to treat him.

                  The service we got was excellent and very helpful, and I wuill definitely be using them again! And I would recommend anyone who is unsure if an illness or injury requires medical treatment to phone them! They will also send out a doctor if you need one :)

                  The number is 0845 4647 and is available 24/7 which is excellent!!! :-D

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                    07.06.2009 14:14
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                    Total waste of time

                    As a site warden at the halls of residence at an out of town College, I often had cause to ring NHS direct on behalf of the students living on site. As I was only ever on wardening duty in the evening I only ever called NHS direct out of hours, but irrespective of the query (and admittedly, most - thoug not all - of the problems I dealt with involved students who had been drinking too much) their response was always exactly the same: take the affected person immediately to the local Accident and Emergency ward in your nearest town.

                    After a while I cut out the middle man of NHS Direct, so to speak, and just took to taking the students straight to A&E.

                    I can accpet that NHS Direct had to err on the side of caution, most of my previous queries being young students / drink-related. I did however have cause to ring the service last month to ask for some background information on medical testing services in the NHS, which the so-called NHS 'health professional' I had been dealing with in person proved completely clueless. I had had an NHS blood test for toxoplasmosis, a disease dangerous to preganant women, but after three weeks wait (initially I was told the result would be available in a week) had still had not been given the test result. I wanted to know if a delay of this type was 'standard' or not.

                    I had to give all my personal details to the NHS helpline operator before they would even consider taking my call. This was time consuming, and incuded my giving the name and address of my doctor; they also logged my call as an official query. When it came to me asking them for informaiton they were no help whatsoever and said they couldn't give advice on such topics.

                    I object to having had to reveal personal details and to having had an 'official' query logged on my behalf, when in fact NHS Direct were able to do nothing to help me. I have rung the service dozens of times, mostly on behalf of others, but never once have been given any useful advice from the service. I find that it is, frankly, rubbish.

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                      29.05.2009 10:25

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                      If you have a medical query or non major problem I would always recommend you call NHS Direct 1st

                      NHS Direct is a great service which offers a quick and helpful service. I believe it must really help cut down on doctors appointments as any problems you have, you can first speaker to them over the phone and they can usually advise you if you need to take it further. When I phoned them up they were extremely good, I first spoke to someone for a preliminary discussion and then if they think it is necessary an actual Doctor will call you back, within about 10 minutes I was called and speaking to someone who was very knowledgeable. This is great as you may just be after some advice and rather than go through the hassle of booking to see your GP you can just call NHS direct. Their website also offers a mass of advice and a self help guide which allows you to select your symptoms and it then gives you information on what to do next. If you have a medical query or non major problem I would always recommend you make NHS Direct your first point of call.

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                      12.04.2009 18:29
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                      I would recommend this highly efficient, prompt service.

                      NHS Direct is a service available for free to all members of public in the UK and is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week either online or on the telephone.

                      I have used the telephone service twice in the past year (once for me, once for my other half) and they are extremely helpful.

                      The first time I had to ring the service I was suffering from a terrible pain on the left side of my back which was persistent and increasing over time and it turned out I actually had a kidney infection and ended up hospitalised. I called the service and they asked me a number of questions and then said that somebody would call me back within 30 minutes as my call was quite urgent (at least it was to me!) a nurse called me back within about ten minutes and advised me to visit my local walk-in centre as soon as possible which I did and then ultimately I ended up in the hospital.

                      The second time I called was when my other half had a growth on his side which had turned very red and swollen, I stated that this was not an urgent call but I needed some advise as his doctor's surgery was closed for the weekend and there was no other number to call on the answer phone message provided when I rang them. I got a call back again very promptly, within about 15 minutes, and they advised me to attend A&E to have it lanced. We did and it was lanced and he was promptly sent on his way with a few weeks recovery time and a two week sick note (it was full of pus whatever it was.... Eurgh all because of an ingrown hair apparently!).

                      Anyway, back to the subject in hand! I have been very helpful with the service provided and the website they have is an absolutely fountain of knowledge on every medical subject imaginable. I have absolutely no complaints with the service provided. The return call was very prompt and they were very knowledgeable. The questions asked on my first call in were relevant to me and they did not waste time on stupid "equality" questions such as my ethnicity and religion choices like they seem to do everywhere these days! I was in pain and wanted a prompt response and that is exactly what I got.

                      I am rating the service 5/5 as the people I spoke to on both occasions were absolutely fantastic and very prompt. I would not hesitate to contact them again in a similar situation or if I couldn't get an appointment with the doctor. I would rather call NHS Direct than go down to our local Walk In Centre about 2 miles away only to be told that there had been no need to attend. Cases are called back in order of priority so if it is not something urgent or major you may wait up to an hour but I would recommend it anyway as the service and the information provided to you should be fantastic (based on my experiences anyway).

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                      23.03.2009 16:08
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                      Who you gonna call? NHS Direct!

                      As my luck would have it, the day before Mothers' Day saw my youngest come down with a tummy bug - sickness and diarrhoea - lovely! Given that this carried on for almost 24 hours and over a weekend, when we are at the mercy of the 'Emergency GP Service' rather than with ready access to my own GP, I decided to turn to NHS Direct for some advice.

                      NHS Direct is a telephone advice line (also available online) offering advice on medical issues which is accessible 24 hours per day. Fortunately, even with two children, I've never had cause to use this service before today.

                      Yesterday morning, after another failed attempt to get my youngest to keep some fluids down, I phoned the NHS Direct helpline on 0845 4647 for advice, mainly because I was worried that he was going to become dehydrated. I got connected to a recorded message pretty swiftly, warning me that the service was under unprecedented demand (great!) and asking me only to hold on to speak to an advisor if it was an 'urgent' matter. I wasn't totally sure whether my query was classed as 'urgent'. Obviously, it wasn't a critical emergency as I'd be calling 999 or rushing up to A&E if it was. Anyway, as the GP always gives children under two priority, I decided that this was 'urgent' and stayed on the line to speak to an advisor (although not before I'd listened to some unsolicited warnings and advice about the Winter Vomiting Virus!) So, there I was waiting patiently to be transferred to a human being when the line went dead. Not the best response when you've finally decided that your query was actually urgent!

                      I wasn't to be deterred and range the number again. Thankfully, this time I did get through to a human being who took my name and address and my son's name and date of birth along with a brief description of the reason for calling. She then told me that a nurse would call be back shortly. She did warn me that call backs could take up to an hour during busy periods but that the current waiting time was around ten minutes. Whilst it may be anxiety-provoking waiting around for a call back, the one advantage to this system is that you're not paying the cost of hanging on the phone waiting (as the original phone call isn't a freephone number. 0845 numbers are local rate but still add up if you're on the phone for a while.) As it happened a nurse called me back less than a minute after ending the call.

                      The nurse that I spoke to was very calm, clear and professional. She did run through a series of health and safety checks with extreme questions such as 'Is your son having difficulties breathing?', 'Has he gone blue in the face?' and 'Does he have a rash anywhere on his body?' (Aargh - automatically starting to panic about meningitis!) Luckily, the answers to all those questions was an emphatic no. (By that time, my son was happily munching on a piece of toast.) My main anxiety was that my son may become dehydrated, as he hadn't been able to keep fluids down for any length of time. The nurse's questions and checks helped to reassure me that he wasn't dehydrated as yet and she gave me some useful advice to help avoid it happening. She was clear and informative without being patronising, which isn't always an easy balance to strike. At the end of the conversation, she gave a brief summary of the advice that she'd given, along with a recommendation for some medication (dioralyte) which my son would be able to take. As you'd expect, the call ended with advice to visit my own GP if the symptoms persisted.

                      Having used this service, I would recommend it to anybody with a specific health query (particularly during evenings and weekends when you haven't got ready access to a GP or a pharmacist.) It certainly saves a trip to the Emergency GP which is not always the most productive of activities. I came away from the phone feeling reassured and knowing that we had done everything that we could for my son. The friendly nurse even wished me a 'Happy Mothers' Day' when she ended the call. NHS Direct seems a great, informative service to me and I'm sure it must be more cost-effective to operate this sort of telephone-based helpline than the more traditional face-to-face service (complete with complimentary germs and viruses!)

                      NHS Direct can be contacted on 0845 4647 or online at www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk

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                        18.02.2009 16:30
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                        Just talk and no real help.

                        Due to lack of proper NHS service in this country during weekends, I had to use NHS-Direct telephone service twice. Personally, I found the service totally useless and waste of time. It is bunch of fresh graduates sitting in the call centre, flipping through the manuals and flow-charts to take you through series of irrelavent questions and test your patience.

                        First time when we called couple of years ago, when I had a fever. They went through very very lengthy questioning process. I could clearly make out that they are reading through manuals and QA guide. They clealy lack common sense. After non-conclusive 15 minutes on the phone, I hanged up.

                        Next time when my baby fell down and had some blood comming out of the mouth, I called them again. The QA session was very funny, but I did not find the funny side when my baby was crying..

                        Q - How Can I help
                        Me - My baby fell down, and I can see some blood in his mouth. He is not crying anymore and now playing. but I am bit worried.

                        Q - Is he concious ?
                        Me - Offcourse, I said that he is playing at the moment.

                        Q - Is he breathing ?
                        Me - F***Off.. (HANGED UP)..

                        I now go to A&E instead if there is a need for urgency. Or call my doctor friend for advise and take over the counter medicine.

                        Internet is the best resource compared to NHS direct service.

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