The NHS: Not America’s Health Care

I’ve been pretty quiet lately, and I blame bronchitis. Again.

It may not surprise any of you to find out that I have succumbed to this silly illness for the third time this year. It’s not like I don’t know it’s coming. I wake up one morning and can anticipate that in approximately 7.34 days, I will be sick. I normally even tell a friend. And then I ignore it.

7.34 days later, I wake up feeling horrible. And finally, I call the doctor, tell them my sad medical history in less than 2 sentences and beg for a same-day appointment. Normally all it takes is a few key words (“asthma,” “bronchitis,” “pneumonia?!?”) and BAM: appointments are suddenly made available. Writing this, I wonder if part of my reticence in making appointments in the first place is knowing that I can play the system so effectively. Why worry about scheduling ahead of time when I know that I can call and get an appointment anytime I want?

The last thing I had promised my mom (and my former boss, and many of my colleagues, and my old neighbor…) before boarding the plane was that I would actually go to the doctor in England, if needed. Upon arriving in the UK, I had actually “registered” with my local clinic, which consisted of walking in, filling out a piece of paper, and turning it in. This simple process entitles me to seek medical care here and it alerts the NHS that I am a new resident who will be claiming benefits.

So now, faced with symptoms I’ll spare you from here, I actually did make an appointment fairly early in the Acknowledgment/Denial Circle of Illness. I called my clinic and began my first experience with the UK’s famed (public) National Health Service.

I walked in, was greeted and waited probably 5 minutes for the appointment. The doctor was wonderful, asking questions about my medical history, putting my medications into the system and telling me the differences between the medicines I could get here and the ones I had brought (mainly minimal, mostly having to do with dosages – inhalers coming in 115 mg doses instead of 110, etc.). She concurred that my diagnosis was correct, prescribed me the exact medication I’d walked in asking for, and assured me that if I didn’t get better in a few days, or if all these symptoms got worse, I should book again. She even told me about a standing “Urgent Care” hour they have each day in the clinic, that allows for walk-in, first-come, first-served slots everyday of the week.

We even had a brief discussion about the health care system in general. Yes, the US would probably never actually achieve the same level of public health as the UK. Yes, there are lots of complaints about the system, mainly focused around the difficulty of getting appointments (clearly, these people haven’t learned the trick!). Yes, it was easy to get appointments at this clinic, as it is on campus and serves mainly the student population.

Long story (very long story, apparently!) short, I took my prescriptions to the local pharmacy, paid a flat £7 fee for each one, and walked out. Sure as rain, I’m feeling much better now. Thank, you NHS, for insta-appointments, familiar medications, and cheap/free everything. You rock.

PS: The featured image is lame. My apologies. I needed something medical and I refuse to use stock photos. These are some ancient gauze pads I found in my grandma’s stuff once. Cool how branding has changed over the years, though.

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3 responses to “The NHS: Not America’s Health Care

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