For many, the journey of our patients begins with a call to NHS 111 and an assessment by one of our highly trained Call Handlers, referred to as Health Advisors. Ethel Durrant, a Health Advisor working from our Luton & Bedfordshire contact centre, tells us more about her job.

Before she joined us in 2019, Ethel worked as an accountant. “I wanted to try something different. I saw the Health Advisor role and because I am someone who finds purpose in helping people, it just seemed ideal for me”, says Ethel. “Now having worked here for 3 years, one of the most enjoyable aspects is knowing you have provided care to someone who really needs it. I often feel very fulfilled.”

So, what exactly does a Health Advisor do every day? “Using a clinical decision tool called NHS Pathways, we aim to get patients the help they need by assessing the symptoms they contact us with. They usually explain how they are feeling, and we take them through a number of questions on NHS Pathways. This algorithm then determines the best course of action for the patient,” Ethel explains.

People unfamiliar with what it takes may sometimes think that being a Health Advisor is easy – a common myth for example is that they just have to read off a script to help patients. However, Ethel explains why her role can be very challenging at times. “You just don’t know who your next call is going to be: sometimes it can be as simple as explaining how to book a COVID-19 vaccination. But other times it can be a very distressing, for instance if the patient is having symptoms of a heart attack. Empathy plays a big part: you need to be able to relate to different people from different backgrounds.”

Health Advisors have access to a big support network within the contact centres for those who may be on a difficult call. “Our managers are very supportive. Floorwalkers are also there to offer help, as are colleagues who are Mental Health First Aiders. These types of calls can sometimes be difficult, so the support is really useful,’ Ethel says.

“The most important thing is to be very patient and remain calm. It really helps the person on the other end of the call who may be in a potentially very distressing situation and we’re here to help.”

“Even though my job can be quite stressful at times, I look forward to coming to work. There is a great atmosphere in the contact centre and if you are having a bad day there is always someone who can lift your mood. Working at HUC feels like you are part of a family, which is what I love about my job”, she says.

“It’s just a great organisation – for example, HUC offers flu clinics to everyone to protect colleagues and our communities from flu. This year, there was a raffle for £100 for those who got vaccinated. And I won! It hadn’t been a hard decision for me to get vaccinated. With COVID-19 and the flu, you have no idea how that may impact you; there is a chance you could become seriously ill. So, it’s just about protecting yourself and your loved ones.” Ethel was the first of our lucky winners and she was delighted when she found out, “At first I didn’t believe the email, but then I was really excited and let my Shift Manager know. I am looking forward to using my voucher in the sales,” she concludes.