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NHS 111, the most unhelpful of helplines



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I’ve got this problem with my new cooker hood. You know the 1-2-3 switch that controls the power of extraction? It doesn’t matter what setting I have it on, the extractor sucks air like a jet engine and cannot be turned down.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

1 First world problems, eh?

2 You seem to have been auto-directed from Pulse to Domestic Appliance Weekly.

They have a veneer of access and assistance but they’re a sham manned by the unqualified following the nonsensical

Well, bear with me. Because, to answer point one, it’s actually no fun at all risking being sucked bodily into a metallic shaft every time I knock up a chicken tikka masala. And as for point two, there’s a GP angle coming along soon.

So I phone the cooker hood helpline and they say it’s because the installer has used the wrong duct size, and I say that I have an A level in physics and that doesn’t make sense to me, and they say that’s what the information they have in front of them suggests is the problem, and I say am I talking to a qualified cooker hood engineer and they say no, we’re phone operators working through an algorithm.

Which, of course, reminds me of the woman I saw yesterday who had phoned 111 about her viral illness and was told that she MUST attend A&E IMMEDIATELY on account of her chest pain. And this insistence was doggedly maintained even when the patient herself pointed out that it hurt only when she coughed or prodded her chest and therefore was obviously only a sore rib.

When she dutifully appeared in A&E, they agreed, of course, and advised her to see her GP, so she waited the statutory week for her appointment with me. By which time she was pretty pissed off and spent the entire ten minutes berating me for all the NHS’s shortcomings. Or maybe it was because I wouldn’t give her a sick note.

Whatever. The moral of the story is, whether for health or cooker hoods, helplines are nothing of the sort. They have a veneer of access and assistance but they’re a sham manned by the unqualified following the nonsensical. They’re taking over the world, they don’t work, and I hate them. But I hate 111 the most because it screws things up and then dumps them, and the frustrations they generate, in my lap.

And I’m still stuck with my ailing cooker hood. I think I’ll take it to casualty.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex