It’s 1 o’clock in the morning and you’ve got a five-year-old with a sky-high temperature, and the Calpol isn’t working.
You’ve just been diagnosed with a bowel condition, and didn’t take in half of what your consultant said.
Your partner has been given some antibiotics, but they’re making them feel so nauseous they want to stop taking them, and it’s the middle of a weekend.
Who you gonna call?
Well if you’re an Equipsme member, the AXA Health at Hand service… The Nurse Support line is part of all of our plans, but we’ve found lots of members aren’t quite sure what it is.
We spoke to Health at Hand Clinical Manager, Jackie Hall, to answer all your questions about what Health at Hand actually does, and when and how it could help YOU and your family.
What is Health at Hand?
Health at Hand is a medical information line. It’s open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
You can get through to a real-life health professional any time of day or night – and there’s no such thing as a stupid question.
Jackie explains: “Health at Hand has been going for around 25 years now, and we take more than 2,500 calls a month, and answer around 700 emails too. We’re a dedicated team of about 20 people who are passionate about helping people with instant health support and information.”
What sorts of things are they on hand to help with?
Pretty much anything - from minor injuries to understanding a diagnosis, information on childhood illnesses to double-checking dosages, dealing with medical side-effects to dealing with grief.
Who’s on the phone?
The service is staffed by registered health professionals. Jackie continues: “We’ve got nurses, midwives, counsellors and pharmacists, who are all on hand to chat. There’s no time limit, so you’re not limited to a ten minute conversation about a single issue.
“You’ve got dedicated, professional medical support in your pocket available whenever you need it, for whatever you need it for.”
What can I talk to a nurse about?
Nurses really do talk to callers about anything, but there are common themes that crop up.
Jackie says: “We obviously talk to a lot of people about immediate symptoms they’re experiencing, or a member of their family is experiencing, and we’ve helped callers recognise a stroke, or given them the confidence to call an ambulance - for instance for cardiac pain or for a child with a rash.
“But we also talk to a lot of people about a pre-existing condition or a recent diagnosis. Part of our job is about education, and empowering people to take control of their health.
“When someone gets home after an appointment they suddenly think of all the questions that didn’t pop into their heads when they were sat in front of their doctor – and that could be about living with diabetes, typical treatment pathways for a heart condition, or explaining the ins and outs of a cancer diagnosis.
“We’ll talk to people worried about upcoming surgery who want to understand how to prepare, or work through with someone what questions they need to ask their doctor to get the best value out of their next consultation.”
What can I talk to a midwife about?
While people will have their own community midwife, if you’ve got an urgent question or need urgent support, Health at Hand is… on hand to help.
“We’ll often get phone calls from women wanting to talk about fertility issues, or worried about their early pregnancy. We can discuss scan results, and talk people through their labour plan and options. After the birth, we can offer that instant support on things like breastfeeding, worries about weight gain, reflux, sleeping - and the billion other things new parents need a bit of back-up over.”
What can I talk to a pharmacist about?
It might not seem immediately obvious what you’d want to talk to a pharmacist about, but they’re very much in demand on the helpline.
Jackie explains: “It’s only when you’ve got your prescription home and come to take it for the first time that you might realise you’re not sure how much you’re supposed to be taking, or when you’re supposed to be taking it.
“Someone might have forgotten to ask their doctor whether a medicine effects or interacts with other medication or supplements they’re on, or they might be experiencing side effects, in which case our pharmacists could explain on next steps, whether to take it at a different time of day, with food – any number of things that can make a real difference.”
What can I talk to a counsellor about?
“Our counsellors are there for people in a moment of crisis, so while it’s not a service where you can get regular therapy sessions, if you really need to talk to someone, there is someone here at the end of the phone,” says Jackie.
“We deal with things like relationship issues, people having suicidal thoughts, people in a moment of high anxiety or desperation. We can also help you with a child that’s struggling or a teen that’s self-harming.
“Not only can our counsellors talk all of that through, but they can help people access further support, and make a plan of action for when they get off the phone.”
When can I call?
You can call Health at Hand at any time, for however long you need, and as many times as you want (within reason). Nurses and counsellors are available 24/7. Pharmacists or midwives are subject to availability 7 days a week.
There’s no official limits on the service, and you can use it for yourself, or to talk about someone you know – whether or not they’re on your plan.
Jackie adds: “We’re interested in helping you. And sometimes that means helping you understand more about the health issues people around you are facing.”
Isn’t it just like NHS 111?
No. First of all because you don’t have to have an immediate or semi-urgent problem to talk to someone – you can talk about something that’s been on your mind, a nagging symptom, or just to get more information.
It’s also different to 111 because you’re straight through to a medical professional rather than a triage system or someone reading through a check-list.
Does it go on my record or effect my plan?
Nope. It’s completely confidential, and it won’t impact any future claims you make on your Equipsme plan.
How do I get in touch?
Call free on 0800 003 004.
“We really are on hand to help you with any health-related question you have,” says Jackie. “I’m incredibly proud of my team and I can reassure you that everyone here is really lovely.
“You can’t ask a stupid question, or an embarrassing one, because we’ve heard it all before and helped it all before! We won’t bamboozle you with clinical jargon, we won’t patronise you, and we definitely won’t fob you off.
“Don’t hesitate if you need us - give us a call, and see how we could help you.”
Health at Hand: Health professionals in your pocket
- Information and support 24/7
- No time limits
- No call limits
- Diagnosis support
- Instant medical support
- Peace of mind