Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Surgery

When I first heard this phrase - as in - your local "surgery" - I thought it was a bit strange....a surgery center? Wrong. Another British word that is different than the American version...It is basically the equivalent of the local doctor's office. These doctor offices exist in every area and locals are assigned a local surgery based on one's post code (aka zip code).
In the two years plus we have lived here in the UK, I had only been to the local surgery once - when we first arrived as I needed to register with the local doctor. The surgery center assigned me one of the doctors in the practice and it was actually not until this week that I met "my" doctor in the group.
The concept of the local surgery is a point of how this NHS system of socialized health care works. Everything runs through your surgery center first if you are following the NHS way. With my recent pregnancy, I sought 100% private care (very a-typical here in England) so I did not visit my local surgery for midwife appointments except to tell them I was pregnant so they could register me at the local hospital and then to show them my notes so they knew I was receiving proper care elsewhere.
However, now that we have Crosby, the local surgery is the doctor's group I will visit for her care and it is as well as where I go for general medical needs. Ironically we have now landed ourselves there twice this week....

First, we went for Crosby's 7 week post-birth hip check and weigh in where we met the doctor with whom we are both registered. All went well and Crosby is growing like a weed (99% for height which we knew would happen with her tall genes!). Then unfortunately I ended up with a bacterial infection this week and so I was back at the doctor's office for treatment and a prescription to assist. For the second visit, I saw a different doctor other than my own - just another one in the practice who had an available appointment.

So beyond the fact that we go to the "surgery" whenever we have medical needs and yet no surgery actually takes place there - I also find it a bit different that the same doctor who sees Crosby is the one who also sees me for any problems I have. If we were in the US, we first would have gone to the pediatrician for Crosby's check up and then I would have seen my own doctor for my situation, however here everyone goes to the "GP" (general practitioners who see all family members and all aged patients) and then if there are special circumstances you would receive a referral to a "consultant" (i.e. an Orthopedic Surgeon, Dermatologist, etc.). In some ways I believe this referral system is how some insurance policies operate in the US, but for a general PPO type of insurance policy, I was always used to going directly to the type of doctor needed for the situation.

This system and concept of the local surgery seems to work just fine here in England, however it is one of the other differences we are adjusting to as we experience life in a different country......I am sure the British might find our system difficult to navigate on the reverse side....


Almost American said...

"My" doctor belongs to a group practice that is a "family practice", so in theory he could see me AND the kids. That was my original plan when I signed up there (before the kids were born.) There are a couple of family practices in town. In the end tho', I chose to have the kids go to the local pediatric practice as the hours are much better, with nurses on call 24/7, and walk-in appointments available at 8 a.m. 6 days/week.

Iota said...

Oh yes, the Brits absolutely do find it difficult to navigate healthcare over here.

But it's much more logical to call it the doctor's office, or medical office, rather than the doctor's surgery! That makes no sense.