Despite some of my friends’ good experiences with Britain’s National Health Service, I am in utter shock at the way they handle referrals for specialist appointments. I went to see my general doctor for some strange pains almost four months ago, and after two separate ineffectual treatments and a negative ultrasound scan, he finally hooked me in for a referral to a specialist who might actually know what he’s doing. Six weeks later, no letter and no appointment, so I go in again to see if he can expedite the order, much to his annoyance. Today I get the letter, shockingly pointing out that I’ll be on the waiting list for at least fifteen weeks. Other folks I talk to say this is a normal thing.

I don’t get it. Maybe I’m just being a pushy, privileged American here, but are people just supposed to die off if something goes really wrong why they’re on that aeons-long waiting list?

This is a *serious* consideration when running over the idea of making this move a permanent one in the future.

17 Responses to “Unbelievable”

  1. pisica Says:
    July 18th, 2004 at 6:51 pm

    Sympathies. My own experience with a referral was not nearly this bad – but then again I was going to a podiatrist, which is hardly life-or-death. 🙂
    When there's an upcoming election, there's a big push to reduce the waiting lists – but, as there's not currently an election….
    I suppose if you have serious complications you'll move up on the list, but of course then it's more complicated and expensive to treat your complications than it would have been if they'd gotten you decent treatment in the first place.
    It bugs the hell out of me when British people scream about how the US is awful and bad because it doesn't have a national health service and therefore you die if you can't afford private insurance. Personally, I see little difference between dying for that reason and dying because the overloaded 'free' (hint: it ISN'T free!) health service can't handle the number of patients. I think both systems can work, *if handled well*. Clearly, neither is perfect, and also clearly, one is not integrally superior to t'other.
    As for being a pushy American: from my limited discussions with British people about this, I would conjecture that they're simply used to the way the NHS works and so just resign themselves to waiting. You, being used to a different standard (?) of health care, are not going to sit back and twiddle your thumbs about it. It may be a case of the squeaky wheel getting more grease.
    There *are* private health facilities here, and I used one last year because the NHS won't pay for a pap smear more than once every three years – obviously, not something you have to worry about 🙂 – they are good, but they cost.
    I don't think there's an easy solution…but in any case, I'm sorry your own experience is bad.

  2. FunkyPlaid Says:
    July 19th, 2004 at 6:54 am

    Yeah, dead is still dead, in Britain or America. Let's hope that has NO relevance to our current situation.

  3. angledge Says:
    July 18th, 2004 at 7:29 pm

    This is a *serious* consideration when running over the idea of making this move a permanent one in the future.
    If you moved over here permanently & seriously wanted access to faster health care, you'd simply have to pay for private health insurance.

  4. FunkyPlaid Says:
    July 19th, 2004 at 6:53 am

    Right. That seems to be the choice.

  5. mxhaunted Says:
    July 18th, 2004 at 8:44 pm

    It takes time with National Health. As Angledge said, you’re better off going private. At least you don’t live in London as it takes longer to get seen down there. It took over a year to be seen and x-rayed about my knees.

  6. avalokita Says:
    July 18th, 2004 at 10:47 pm

    Are you fucking kidding me?!?!?

  7. mxhaunted Says:
    July 18th, 2004 at 11:05 pm

    ‘tis true. It took ages as they forgot about me and then it took another half a year to get an appointment. After all that they didn’t want to operate and just fobbed me off with physiotherapy. Thankfully up here I’ve got an op lined up very soon.

  8. avalokita Says:
    July 18th, 2004 at 11:14 pm


  9. shawree Says:
    July 18th, 2004 at 9:20 pm

    I'll have to agree with what's been said above. It took me five days to get an emergency (!) appointment with a dentist after our car accident in December, and then I only got one by going to the G-dents late at night. We're still not registered with an NHS dentist and have decided to go private as there simply doesn't seem to be any other option.
    A friend of mine has got a specialist appointment for April next year, and another two are on waiting lists and meanwhile abide their time with painkillers. Seen in this context, your 15 weeks aren't too bad. Your options are a) to wait, b) to try to get an appointment privately or c) if it becomes acute, to go to the nearest A & E. I don't even have the words to describe what I think of this though – if you're a privileged American, I'm a privileged German.
    On another note, I found a couple of old pictures the other day, including one with Tales and another person that might very well be you in it. I think <lj user="thefastone"> took it at a buca run down in Edin, that ring a bell?

  10. FunkyPlaid Says:
    July 19th, 2004 at 6:52 am

    Yes, I realize it could be tons worse, and I still think I'm in pretty good health. The idea of having to live with pain unnecessarily is foreign to me, and I think it is entirely inappropriate, though many Britons seem to be incredibly stoic and hearty about the whole thing. I'm not inured to it, and don't like it one bit, but I'll deal until I get home or they give me an appointment…or it goes away.
    April next year??? Man, oh, man.
    I'm not sure about the old pictures; I'd love to see them, of course. If they implicate me in compromising behaviour, then it's definitely NOT me in those pics. If they're of a handsome, charming, and radiant individual, I guarantee it's me…or someone extremely similar. 🙂

  11. avalokita Says:
    July 18th, 2004 at 10:46 pm

    Yeah it's a toss up. Free health care and waiting for weeks for treatment, or American healthcare and being a "Have" or "Have-not".

  12. dr_beep Says:
    July 19th, 2004 at 6:39 am

    As screwed up as thsi country is, and as screwed up as our health care is, it's still pretty good… bleh!
    In other news:
    Taurus: (April. 20—May 20)
    You'll welcome a new life into the world next week, when a dimensional portal opens in your den and vomits forth an extraplanar pig-beast of astounding malevolence.

  13. FunkyPlaid Says:
    July 19th, 2004 at 6:45 am

    Oh! Now I know what's been causing the pain!
    Thanks for that.

  14. sleepycinderell Says:
    July 19th, 2004 at 8:14 pm

    I hope the NHS doesn't put you off becoming a full time Scot.
    I try to stay with the NHS instead of going BUPA but I don't know anyone who doesn't have a horror story and it almost killed me a couple of years ago too. That said, we're used to it and most folk only have the one horror story : )
    Stay healthy!

  15. FunkyPlaid Says:
    July 24th, 2004 at 9:12 pm

    Thanks for the commiseration, and also for the confidence.
    You know, I can't believe that we haven't gotten together even once during my tenure here. I'm in dissertation hell at the moment, but would you have some time for tea or something of the like in the near future?

  16. sleepycinderell Says:
    July 25th, 2004 at 8:00 am

    I think you move too fast for me to catch up : )
    I'm moving out to Portobello this week so you would be very welcome to come out and build sandcastles with me as soon as you like.
    If all goes well Lara and Sethly will be coming out on Thursday (prob) to ensure that the new flat and I are fully functioning so if you're able to stowaway in the car you can join us for unpacking, shelf fixing and chocolate cake eating.
    You don't need to be useful with a screwdriver; you can stand nearby and make helpful comments instead : )

  17. FunkyPlaid Says:
    July 26th, 2004 at 8:23 pm

    Ooh! Posh beach resort for Mo!
    Waaay busy this week, but we'll be in contact very shortly for some fun and cake eating, for certain. And I still owe you a picture, I think. Please forgive my unreliability, dear. I shall take care of it if you haven't nabbed it already.

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