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Cauda Equina Syndrome and NHS 111

Cauda Equina Syndrome and NHS 111

Cauda equina syndrome can be a medical emergency. It is, therefore, vital that patients receive accurate and timely advice when presenting their symptoms to a medical practitioner.

Seeking help from NHS 111

If someone is experiencing the distressing symptoms of cauda equina syndrome, they may well contact NHS 111 the NHS telephone advice service for help and advice as to what they should do.

The NHS 111 call-handler should be able to make appropriate enquiries as to the patient's symptoms and experiences, and advise on the best course of action. Trained nurses and paramedics should be available to support this process. If necessary, they should advise the patient to attend A&E or the out-of-hours services or a walk-in centre as appropriate.

One difficulty with seeking medical advice from NHS 111 is that a physical examination cannot be carried out. The call handler should, therefore, have received sufficient training to be able to ask the necessary questions or pass the call to a trained practitioner who will be able to recognise the severity of the situation.

Responding to the patient

If the patient is describing lower back pain, sciatica-like pain in one or both legs, and/or problems with urinating, the call handler should have sufficient understanding to know that they must ascertain the following:

  • Does the patient have any urinary symptoms
  • Is the patient experiencing any problems regarding bowel function
  • Is there any loss of sensation in the saddle area
  • Does the patient have any weakness in lower limb reflexes, especially the ankles

As appropriate, the caller should either be advised to seek non-emergency care, or be advised to attend A&E as a matter of emergency.

If the caller is not experiencing these symptoms of developing cauda equina syndrome, they should, nonetheless, be advised of these red flag symptoms of cauda equina syndrome, and be advised to attend A&E urgently if they develop.

Problems with NHS 111

Unfortunately, the NHS 111 service has received significant criticism since it started due to the lack of training and experience of its call handlers. It has been accused of sending people to A&E who did not need to be there, and of keeping desperate people waiting on the line.

The service is currently undergoing review with the intention to provide an improved level of service with access to a wider range of trained clinicians, including dentists, paediatricians and pharmacists.

Until the service improves, however, some people will continue to rely on the advice that is currently available and sometimes, especially where a condition is rare, such as cauda equina syndrome, that advice may not be good enough.

Medical Negligence

If you have suffered from poor medical advice regarding your cauda equina syndrome, you may be entitled to make a claim for compensation for your on-going problems.

Glynns Solicitors is a team of medical negligence specialists. We will be very happy to discuss your circumstances and help you assess whether it would be appropriate to make a claim.

Please call us on 0800 234 3300 (or from a mobile 01275 334030) or complete our Online Enquiry Form.

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