Being a Service User in the NHS
On Friday, I had my first appointment with the surgery (office) of the doctors in my neighborhood who are accepting new patients. The system is not unlike that of an HMO in the states. There are lists of practices from which you can choose your GP (PCP). In the UK, however, the practices you can choose from are based upon your residential postcode, whereas in the USA your choices are based upon who participates with your plan. I had called two weeks prior to make this non-emergent appointment. That is approximately the same period of time I would have had to wait for a similar appointment in New York.
I arrived a half hour early to the office which was clean, was greeted by staff who were friendly, and was seen by the nurse practitioner within 10 minutes. I answered a series of health screening questions and had my vital signs taken. The NP asked if I had any concerns which I thought needed immediate attention of a physician, as there was one of the staff physicians in the office. I replied that, no, I didn't have any immediate needs other than to refill my Lipitor prescription. I've taken this medication for over five years and my doctor in New York provided me with a prescription before I left to show to my UK doctor. The NP left the room and three minutes later provided me with a UK prescription for Lipitor. I was instructed to stop back in a month so that they could run my bloods for a baseline value. She would've taken them immediately but I foolishly had miscounted my remaining pills from the US and ran out about 3 weeks ago. She wanted my bloods when I had my usual meds in my system. Made sense to me! I was instructed that I could call the surgery before 8:00 am and get a same day appointment. The offices purposely save time slots for people calling for same day needs. My New York doctor didn't do that! I left the office a mere 30 minutes after I had arrived. Total out of pocket expense; nothing.
I then went to my local pharmacy and presented my prescription for 2 months worth of Lipitor. Total out of pocket expense; 7.20 pounds sterling ($11.50 USD).
Back in the states I had what was considered to be good insurance plan through my employer. The same process though would've cost me $25.00 co-pay at the doctor's office, and $25.00 co-pay per month's worth of Lipitor for a total of $75.00 USD.
I've heard all the horror stories about the NHS but, I'm sorry, I'm just not seeing it.
I made a house call today to a patient with an asthma exacerbation. It was a joint visit with a nurse. I provided chest PT and she reviewed the patient's medications, which included nebulizers and steroids. The patient simply wasn't improving so we called the MD. The MD listened and responded, "How about if I go and see the patient during my lunch?" Nobody blinked an eye except for me. It is normal for a physician to stop and do what is needed for a patient here.
I had been very nervous about the quality of care when I moved here. I'm not nervous anymore.