Tuesday, May 19, 2009

An Apple a Day...

Is said to keep the doctor away....let's hope it works because I do not want to be going to the doctor over here! 

In my opinion, one of the glaring differences in living over here has been the healthcare system, known here as NHS (national healthcare system). I will tell anyone who favors socialized medicine to come over here and live for a year and see how things work. 
It seems that because there is free healthcare for all citizens, there seems to be a lack of preventative care in general in order to save money because it is a government funded situation. 

A good friend (American family) had a baby a few months ago over here and the mom took the baby in for her first round of shots. She asked the doctor when she should plan to bring the child back for her next well child visit how often they would occur. The doctor said "Well Child visit? - Why would we need to see your child if she's well!" Right. That experience, coupled with the fact that she had this baby in a rather terrible hospital setting (I will refrain from going into that situation because I could write a novel and it wasn't even my experience!), makes all of us want to keep our American doctors so that we can visit them when we are back on a home visit. 

I am not impressed with the health care here, yes, I will admit it, and I could even be called a bit negative when talking about it. I know the resistance is partially due to the fact that we have been very lucky and fortunate with good health care insurance and access to premier doctors in the US. Living over here makes me REALLY appreciate that aspect of the US and I hope that I never need to know to what extent the US is ahead of the rest of the world as far as medical advances are concerned.  

Last week I needed to have a MRI run on my knee because I have been having bad knee pain for a few months. The results were alright and luckily it is just some fluid under my knee cap and a bit of tension on my IT band which will hopefully correct itself with a steroid injection and some PT. However, I had great anxiety about the results of this MRI because of the way the situation was handled.
First, let me share with you a photo I took of the "hospital" I visited to have this MRI scan. 
It is a house that has been converted into a "hospital." I know everything is much older in this country and so there are not as many new buildings as we are used to in the US, but it is VERY strange to walk into a hospital setting that you would otherwise consider to be a dining room or living room! It did not feel very sterile and definitely did not feel like a medical facility. The NHS hospital by us is not very clean - as they have had a diarrhea outbreak for the past three months that has been difficult to contain. Sorry to have to publish such gory details but simple steps of sterilization and cleanliness would probably help curb such issues! If we had to use the ER, I would probably drive further away just to avoid that nearest hospital because of its issues. 

Overall my experience for the MRI itself was just fine - aside from it being in a house. The machine was newer and quite fancy. I had the scan on a Monday and on Friday I thought to myself that it was odd that I had not heard the results from the doctor. Low and behold, I received a letter in the POST saying that I was scheduled for an appointment with the doctor at 5:30pm on a Wednesday the following week to discuss the results. Discuss the results in person??? I thought it MUST be TERRIBLE news if the doctor needed to see me in person! Furthermore, how did they assign me this appointment time without a call first to see if I were even available? 

As it turns out, even though I saw this private doctor and he does not see NHS patients, his practice still operates like the NHS system - sending all letters for appointments via POST and assigning you a time without your consent. Within the NHS system if you (as the patient) need to cancel an appoint, they will just re-issue you a new appointment slot with a letter/notice via post. 
For a country that recycles everything and anything possible, I find it is crazy that they waste so much time, energy and paper by posting letters for your doctor's appointment. Wouldn't a phone call work much faster and easier for all involved in scheduling???

In my situation, I ended up calling the doctor's office and explained I was not used to such letters being sent to me for appointment bookings and would prefer it if the doctor could call me with my results first and if I needed to come see something on the scan, I would be more than happy to come into the office. (I am sure they thought I was crazy for not coming in to the office!!) However, I felt that the suspense of having to wait for an in-person appointment was too much to handle. I ultimately kept thinking the worst.... I guess if I knew about such system before having my first experience with the doctor, I probably would have known it was proper protocol. Either way, I still find this health care system to be more than a bit undesirable and inefficient. Fingers crossed we really don't have to use it while we're here...


Michelle said...

I couldn't agree with you more, my fellow expat!!! I've also had to "pleasure" of NHS for surgery. In a word: HORRIBLE!
Take care of your knee!

andrea said...

Eh, as an American who had a baby in the UK I can say it isn't as awful as it sounds. I hated parts of it but the well child visit isn't as weird as it sounds, they have baby clinics every week and you can take your child in every week if you want to, and they do checks at something like 4 months, 9 months and 12 months, so it isn't that different from the US. I also didn't pay anything to have my son and that can't be beat.

Would I do it again there? Probably not, I would probably do a homebirth, but I feel that way in the US as well. I loved the midwifery system and the hands off approach, but I had no problems. I am sure I would feel differently if I had.

Saying all that I am actually against socialized healthcare after my time in the UK, but I just wanted you to know my experience!

Iota said...

I think it's just that the doctor didn't understand the phrase "well child visit". As Andrea says, babies have "check-ups" at 6 weeks, 3, 6, 12 and 18 months, and then annually.