All this week the Mail has been highlighting the shocking scale of the crisis in Britain’s out-of-hours care. Yesterday we exposed the GPs who made millions out of the helplines — while patients using the service complained of terrible neglect. Today, a whistleblower reveals the chaos in a 111 call centre . . .
The voice on the end of the line is fraught, frightened. ‘My husband has just been discharged from a psychiatric unit. He has no medication and he needs it urgently,’ the woman pleads. ‘He has to see a doctor now. I’m afraid he might kill someone.’
In the background I hear a man shouting, raving. He says he is possessed by devils. It is quite obvious why the woman is scared. I try to calm and reassure her, but I have so little faith in the system I’m operating, I fear for her safety.
It is early evening, ten minutes before the end of my shift as a call handler for NHS 111, the round-the-clock patients’ helpline, and all I can do is follow procedure.
The dispatcher who organises the on-call doctors’ workload is alerted to the case.
But the woman may have to wait ten, 12, even 14 hours until help arrives; by which time the man, who is clearly violent and deranged, could have attacked his wife.