Look at it this way - March 9, 2012

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ONE likes one one one. It’s the new non-emergency line for the undecided when debating whether or not to call 999 – particularly in the early hours of the morning when the ‘should we wait it out or could that be too late?’ mentality emerges.

When you’re 99.9 per cent certain your ageing mother has norovirus and she’s fading fast with additional complications, wait and see is not an option.

But I’m a journalist and know British hospitals are beset once the winter vomiting season et al acquires a sudden spring to its stride.

When homes are often over- heated and under-ventilated, viral infections can spread like hot gossip and be just as damaging.

Norovirus is one such. And there’s so much of it about the Vic deploys an infection control squad to quiz patients on their, er, movements in every sense.

But how do you balance the risk of endangering a loved one by delaying against exposing others to a highly contagious infection?

My advice is YOU don’t. Leave it to the experts to make the call. Ring 111 and ask for advice. Be clear and precise. I did that not once, but twice last night – at their prompting.

The scheme’s a halfway house between an old-style NHS helpline and 999 red alert, now the old days of calling out the family doctor after hours (or any hours) are well and truly over.

We should count ourselves fortunate it’s being piloted in Lancashire. Like the new 101 number for police, you won’t know you need it until you do.

You access advice and intervention. Having asked me a series of questions, and sympathetically so, the service fast-tracked me to an out of hours doctor, as luck would have it, our local GP, familiar with a medical history so vast Sherpas have to lug Ma’s medical records to A&E.

A few hours later, having been guided on tell-tale signs that her condition was deteriorating, I made a second call and 111 had an ambulance at my mother’s side in five minutes. That takes some beating. Lovely paramedics, marvellous medics in an emergency wing already chocker with barrier nursing cases, and a lifesaving auxiliary gave me tea and sympathy too.

There are some perks to being a columnist, and being able to say thank you is one of them.

I have another thank you too. To Lions International. They helped my family years ago when we were skint after dad’s death – when they brought us a hamper. This time they provided ready access to my mother’s prescription list.

When her “infallible” filing system fell flat on its face at 5am today, as I searched in vain for a list of her meds, I remembered the green cross container stashed in the fridge for just such an emergency. The ultimate fail-safe provided, free, by Lions International. Ordinary people, amazing things, says their slogan. Indeed. Praise be the lot of you.