Emergency health services

Today I’m writing a post I hoped wouldn’t come so soon (or at all!): dealing with health concerns when walk in centres and GPs are closed.

On Thursday night my chest started hurting and when I lied down it started hurting even more, every time I breathed in or out. Initially I wasn’t going to do anything about it but since the pain didn’t get better at all after 2h and having taken strong painkillers I decided to call the NHS 111 phone line. I thought the call would mainly be for my peace of mind, I’d just be reassured it was fine and then I’d go and see my doctor when it was open the next day but that wasn’t how things went. At the start of the call I had to provide my date of birth and then spell out my name and last name. After spending about 15 min arguing with the person who picked up the phone about my last name (yes, it is two words, no there isn’t a dash, apparently that’s too hard for whomever that was to believe) I was asked a lot of questions about the pain and asked to do a few things and tell them if that increased the pain or not plus some questions to try to figure out if I had other symptoms that could be related to it then they told me they’d like to call an ambulance over for me.

Once the ambulance appeared I thought I would just be taken to a hospital but instead there was a paramedic carrying two big bags of stuff and she measured my blood pressure, temperature, she did a ECG on the spot as well as some blood tests and asked me more in depth questions (some of them overlapped with what I was asked in the call but not all), she listed all of my current prescription medicines and then said that based on the results of the tests she did she’d like to take me to the hospital (and to remember to get either a passport or my BRP before leaving because I would need it at the hospital, she almost forgot to tell me and I didn’t even think about it).

My girlfriend and I headed downstairs with her. Since I was in Woking instead of Guildford the closest hospital was St Peter’s which was somewhere I’d never been. The appearance of the ambulance also surprised me. It was really small and if I’d seen it in the road I would have assumed it was a police car rather than an ambulance. Inside it had a lot of screens (one had the map, the rest I couldn’t figure out what they were), the driver’s and passenger’s seat and a single seat in the back. We got to the hospital and the paramedic talked to the triage nurse, then told us to seat in the waiting area and went to check us in. After checking us in she wished us good luck and left. Shortly after she left we were called in to talk to the triage nurse and afterwards taken to see a different person who ran some tests (they were basically the same that the paramedic had done, I’m unsure why) and when she was done she told us to sit in the waiting area again. Roughly 3 and a half hours later we were finally called to see a doctor and she said all of my tests were fine so it was probably muscular pain and that I should go back home.

Overall it was really annoying that they said the same thing the paramedic had already told me and I wasted 4h on that (plus it was 2am by the time we left!) but I guess given that I wasn’t expecting the paramedic and the tests in the first place it was roughly the same amount of time I expected it to take when I was told they were sending out an ambulance and it was reassuring to know from the start that there was nothing wrong with my heart. While at the hospital the main difference from hospitals I’m used to was the constant going in and out in between tests rather than just being called in and stay there until they’re done with you (though I don’t know if that’s the case in all hospitals in England).

I hope this post was useful in helping you know how emergency medical care services are like here. If you have any questions feel free to ask!