Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sure, the free drugs are nice, but I really wanted to face off with a death panel

When I showed this to my dear, dear friend Kat, she assured me I was 'not that boring.'

I know, I know. Worst blogger ever. I guess I feel like blog posts should be all whiz-bang, yeehaw exciting, rather than ... whatever it is I could actually be posting about.

Life on this strange little island, though, continues pretty much as before. The job search remains tedious. (There used to be a neat little metaphor about a lighthouse of optimism here. Then someone shot the bulb out.) Still going to a few football matches a week -- though you all bore of that easily, apparently! And I still occasionally prove useful on quiz nights. (Need to know which is the largest state by population? I'm your guy. Need to know trivia about long-running BBC children's show Blue Peter? Erm, does anyone else need a beer?)

But. But! I have now had my first few sips at the fountain of life that is socialised medicine. (Yes, I spelled it with an 's'. If I ever DO get a job, I figure the practice will be helpful.) As such, I now feel utterly qualified to pronounce truths on the long-running debate of the relative merits of public and private health care.

Or, you know, just to relate what actually happened.

I rang up my local GP back in August, because I needed some new prescriptions. Was given an appointment for a few weeks later, though I think the timeline was more because there was no urgency to my particular situation. If I'd needed to get in sooner, I probably could have.

Once I had my prescriptions, I went over and got one filled. Because I'm unemployed, it was free. Huzzah, I thought ... but this could be annoying if I ever find work, since prescriptions for the working are £7.20 apiece, and I was going to need quite a few of them filled.

But, a little bit of Google sleuthing later, I learned that diabetics also receive free prescriptions! And not just for diabetic supplies -- for everything. (So I got THAT going for me, which is nice.) They're also free for cancer patients, anyone over 60 or under 16 (18 if you're still in school), pregnant or a new mom (er, mum),

That first visit produced nothing more than prescriptions. But I was sent a letter with an appointment for a diabetic check, which was Tuesday. And I was able to surreptitiously work out how the office works; they hand you a placard with your GP or nurse's name on it, and there's a board with all their names and lights. When yours lights up, you go back. Sounds simple ... but it's not as though they explain it. (Then again, how many people come in at 28 having never visited a GP before? Exactly.)

Before the diabetic check, I had to have blood drawn, which meant visiting a separate phlebotomy clinic. Unsure of how it actually worked, I wandered in looking, I'm sure, like a deer caught in headlights and taking a couple minutes to realise that I was supposed to take a numbered ticket and sit down.

My ticket number was 34. They were on 24. I figured I'd be there for at least an hour.

And 20 minutes later, I was back out the door. Portrait of efficiency, that place was. Three ladies drawing blood with the surgical precision of a vampire. (And not one of those 'shiny' ones, either.)

So then the actual appointment was Tuesday. Most of it was with Nurse Caryl, who did all the basic things, height, weight, etc., and gave me a flu shot and pneumonia shot (also free because I'm diabetic ... there is a theme here). My GP checked my eyes, feet, etc. Both of them were very nice, if slightly baffled by exactly WHY I happen to be in this country. (Most commonly asked question so far: 'So how long are you staying for?')

I also was instructed to contact one of the area diabetes clinics for yet more follow-up; I expect this may be where there's actual discussion of my management, as Tuesday's visit seemed to be more about possible complications, etc.) And I'm also supposed to get some sort of retinal photography done. All very fancy.

So all in all, I'm pretty pleased with the whole thing. Certainly the most disorienting aspect is that when you're done with the GP (or blood-taking lady), you just walk out. You don't have to stop by the desk ... because you don't have to pay.

Negatives? Yeah, maybe a couple. The prescription system's a bit tricky ... especially when you don't understand it. Essentially, I have to take my repeat order form into the GP's office, then come back a couple days later to pick up an actual prescription, which I then get filled. That's made slightly more annoying by the fact that the GP didn't prescribe all that much of any one thing. (Indeed, when I said I tested my blood sugar 6-8 times a day, he recoiled in horror and said it should be more like 2-3. But that's an argument he's going to lose, and so far I don't see there's much he can do to stop me.)

And there is a slight sense of being bounced around a little, but then it's not as though one doesn't visit specialists in the U.S. either.

As for the death panels, I'm sure they're back there somewhere. I'll keep looking.

1 comment:

John said...

Ah, nice to see a post. Yes, the healthcare system is wonderful. Imagine no insurance premiums or paperwork. A great thing. Do let us know about the death panels when you find them.