My Experience with NHS

August 7, 2009 at 2:35 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments

I’m working on another man on the street interview from London…asking Brits what they think of NHS (the UK’s national health service) and if they would prefer the US healthcare system instead.  Of the responses I’ve been able to get on camera so far, they are overwhelmingly positive.  So positive, in fact, that my report may end up sounding a bit one-sided, which is not my intention.  Now, I fear the conservative commenter wrath that will inevitably ensue on YouTube (ugh).  Anyway, while I continue to work on interviews and editing, I figured I could add some of my own experience with NHS since I moved to London.  Like most Americans exposed to anti-socialist rants on the poor quality of socialized healthcare, I was a bit wary and skeptical.   Would I be waiting in line for hours?  Could I trust the quality of care? Would the system be unnavigable and complicated?  Fortunately, my experience was quite the contrary.

Before leaving New York I had one week where I would be uninsured.  I took the risk figuring it was only a week and resolving to look both ways before carefully crossing the street.  The day after I finished at MSNBC, ending all claims to benefits, I received a call from my doctor that I would need an emergency procedure on a health condition I had been monitoring for about 13 months.  The procedure and the lab results would cost me over $800.  If they had only called a day earlier, I would have still been covered under my GE benefits.  Now I was paying almost $1,000 out of pocket.  The timing could not have been worse.  Anyway,  I got this procedure done and my US doctor advised me to get a GP set up right away in London who would then help me sort out the next steps for my second, follow-up operation.

When I got to the UK, I found that my local clinic was about a 6 minute walk from my flat.  I made an appointment in person (you can make them over the phone as well) and received a confirmation letter in the mail a few days later.  On the day of the appointment which was around 10 am, I walked to my clinic.  Most clinics have a computerized touch screen check-in.  You just punch in your date of birth and a message appears telling you that your doctor has been alerted of your arrival.  I sat in the waiting room for about 5 minutes before my doctor, not a nurse, came out to greet me.  He took me back to his office where he immediately began creating a computerized file on my health background, asking me questions about my last procedure and typing everything into my new record.   He forwarded that information on to the specialist I had to see for my follow up operation and advised me that I would be receiving the date and time of my next appointment in the mail shortly.  I then asked him about possibly seeing someone to talk to about moving to a new country and dealing with the stress of this health condition.  Instead of my doctor giving me a list of local therapists to call myself, he rang up a colleague to see if she had free time.  He arranged for a trial session on the spot.

A few days later I received the appointment time and date for my operation in the mail at a hospital a few blocks from my workplace.  The wait time there was a bit longer, perhaps 20-25 minutes.  The operaton lasted slightly longer than the one back home, but the doctor and nurse were incredibly friendly, and on the whole, the experience was a lot more pleasant than my October operation.  I’m fine now and have (just recently) paid off the $700 bill from nearly a year ago.

I’ll be honest, it feels a bit weird to open up about my health on this blog, but I felt it was important to share this after reading and watching some of the anti-healthcare reform initiatives spreading back home.  The system is efficient, provides satisfactory care and it’s FREE.  Totaling up everything I’ve had done since my arrival here, I probably would have had to pay around $2,000 back home, which explains the positive feedback from my man on the street interviews.  It’s hard to slag off a system that’s virtually free (all prescriptions are £6 and birth control is free).  Now, I don’t expect to convert any anti-reformers out there, but I do hope this post dispels at least some of the misconceptions  about government-run healthcare.

Stay tuned for the man on the street video…hope you enjoy it!



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  1. Here’s what I don’t get. People are so scared of government-run healthcare (which is NOT what POTUS is proposing anyway). Why don’t these people ask their grandparents on Medicare what they think of gov’t-run HC? Last I checked, seniors were pretty happy with it.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’ve spoken to friends in Canada and their experiences with their system are not nightmare-ish either. What’s so wring with providing a base level of coverage for all Americans and allowing companies to use supplemental care as a recruiting/employee benefit tool? Seems to make sense to me?

    Not to mention, companies will have less healthcare expenses, which equals higher profits, healthier bottom lines, more jobs, higher salaries (potentially) and happier workers. Sounds like a terrible idea!

  2. Interesting read, glad to hear you are all better too.

    I must admit being from Australia and then moving to Britain, I’ve been generally spoilt when it comes to low cost and accessible health care. That’s not to say that I haven’t had trouble at times but generally it’s pretty amazing system.

    • Thanks! Ideally, if more people here and in Canada and Australia could talk about how easy their own experiences, it could possibly drown out all the deceptions and misconceptions that are being spread back in the States. The pro-healthcare reformers need more voices from abroad talking about their experiences to gain support. They are getting too tangled up in countering Republicans on the details. Dems need to get back to talking about what the system would look like from a broader perspective, emphasizing the benefits, coverage and low cost.

      • You’re one of the most intelligent and sophisticated women I’ve seen on youtube. Keep making more videos, they’re very interesting and entertaining. I really enjoy them. Gosh, I wish I could meet someone like you. You seem to so cultured and knowledgeable. Your parents must be really proud you. I know you’re very busy person but could you reply to this message. I really want to hear from you. I miss The HotFile.

      • Hey, thanks for watching and coming to the site. I really appreciate it. Thanks for the kind words as well. I’ll try to keep posting…I’m back in school but I think I can find the time. Any ideas on what the next video post should be?

    • And btw, go smarkets:) see you at the party Tues!

  3. After living in the UK for a year, I can report there are pros and cons to the NHS. I find the system of waiting to be “invited” for my well-woman exams (pap smear, mammogram, etc.) a bit unnerving since I like the freedom to call up a doctor and arrange it myself. And, when you are over 50, you do not receive a full gynaecological exam–only the smear–and only every 5 years. And you given a mammogram only every 3 years. In addition, my GP’s office has been very slow in following up on referring me to specialists. I also find that the doctors I have seen, even for a sinus infection, are very “hands-off”. Yes they will take lots of information and put it into the computer, but I have not felt that I was given an examination–just asked a lot of questions and prescribed a remedy.

    • Hi Debra,

      I really appreciate your input. If you’re around Covent Garden tomorrow afternoon, I’ll be there asking passerbys about NHS…feel free to drop by if you’re interested in sharing your opinion on camera. Thanks!


  4. A very level headed piece.

    My reason for commenting is that I am British and used to seeing just about everything American continually and most shrilly “slagged off” by the British, in the media, in politics and in the street. So I am highly amused to see how hysterically my co-nationals are reacting to the criticism of the NHS by Americans. Sauce for the goose…

  5. thank you for this insightful, well balanced posting. this is exactly the kind of first hand experience i’ve been looking for.

    i live in the u.s. and have survived the tug and pull of august 2009. the media here did not offer anything educational or informative.

    i’ve been wanting to learn and hear about the healthcare system in the U.K., the Netherlands, Germany and France for some time. i’ve wanted most of all to learn about it from people who’ve experienced it.

    there is too much emotionalism here and not enough information coming forth so i’m turning to the blogs and postings of others like yourself.

    my main worry has been how i’m going to afford the kind of healthcare president obama is going to sign. so far i’m not satisfied with the massive influence the health insurance lobby has had. i don’t feel this is true reform. with a personal mandate we’re all going to be herded over to these insurance companies.

    i’m in favor of single payer. one basic plan for all. a flat 4% of everyone’s income. and supplemental coverage via private insurance firms.

    there is too much disorder in the rush and push and bitterness going on. my concern is that all the government supplements that people will receive to pay for mandated coverage will be eyed by greedy fraudsters.

    what’s to stop another bubble economy, this time built on healthcare expansion with many fraudsters setting up new healthcare coops and then after awhile taking off with the money?

    the government also says there’s consumer protections guilt into this legislation, however, i do not trust the major insurers. i’m sure after careful meetings with their lawyers they’ll find ways to side step them.

    the administration has turned too pro-insurance lobby. the legislation is getting more and more bloated each day. i may be wrong but i think the trainwreck is already on the track and just waiting to derail.

    • thanks for your input! i really, really appreciate it! i too think the best way to learn about our health care system and unravel the debate is to find out more about competing health care system, especially those in europe. i also heard that singapore mandates care for patients with cancer, which is another interesting solution. i think in finding the comparisons and how the US is different from other countries — ie demographics, immigration figures, education and nutrition stastitics, we can better pinpoint why european methods of national healthcare system are successful and perhaps easier to implement. theres also the problem of the healthcare lobby…i too don’t know whether to trust them or not. they must know that the current system can’t sustain itself and change is inevitable, so perhaps they’re jumping on board before the ship sinks? that’s giving them the benefit of the doubt, which is hard to do considering their history of fine print and the countless stories huffington post has dug up on insured americans being denied care.

  6. Hello my name is Dee. I came across your blog accidently but happy to have done so. I wish you could share this relevant story with every anti reform American! I live on Long Island and work in the health field. I am disturbed by the negative viewpoints my colleagues take on health reform. Despite the current economic crisis, so many are against change. Unionized workers tell me they love their medical plan and don’t want to lose it. Great! But what about the rest of us who can’t access this great deal (which by the way, Veterans also get?). What bothers me most is the unequal system that we have. True every American has access to health care but not every American can afford it. A specialist recently denied my friend a procedure she needs. The reason being he does not accept her ‘not so great’ health insurance. Well, I’ve vented enough here. I am happy I happened upon your blog. Good luck with your work and health and thank you for sharing your thoughts!


  7. Thank you for your blog post. Thomas and I are already saving for our new publication on this theme and your writing has made all of us to save the money. Your thinking really solved all our inquiries. In fact, a lot more than what we had acknowledged before we ran into your excellent blog. My partner and i no longer have doubts and a troubled mind because you have attended to our needs right here. Thanks

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