Uff… I wanted to write about something else this week but this topic is simply taking all my thoughts: healthcare. I am not a hypochondriac and I don’t enjoy going to the doctors. I’d postpone the visit for as long as possible. For instance, if I have a cold I don’t need any prescriptions (and definitely no antibiotics) but I do need 5-7 days of rest, sleep and warm drinks. But there are cases which require a doctor and here it comes: one of the hardest parts of immigration for me is dealing with the local healthcare.
First of all, I need to say that I was spoiled as a child: due to my mothers work we had a great private polyclinic for free. [At least when I was living there] there were those polyclinics in Moscow where you would come with ANYTHING of a bother. One big building and all the doctors, x-rays, blood tests, etc. were there, you simply had to arrange with the reception to plan a visit. If anything of an emergency you could always pop up without an appointment, you’d just had to wait for your turn to be checked. In this private clinic, it was a must to visit ALL the doctors once a year. I hated it but in fairness it was great: it was like ‘House MD’: if one doctor saw something wrong they would send you to another one to double check. My body was constantly under control. I’m not even talking about house visits: in both private and public clinics, doctors would visit patients with fever. And that was my idea of healthcare. Free and great.
And then I moved to Berlin where insurance costs money and is obligatory for every resident of Germany. I was kind of lucky being a student and paying the lowest fee but it still was €80 a month (which increased to €170 once I turned 30). Quite a fortune considering the fact that I don’t really go to the doctors. And the German system was very different from what I was used to. Thousands of tiny different practices spread all over the city and if you want to see a particular doctor you have to google it, give them a call (or sometimes you could arrange an appointment online) and go (in many cases) to the other side of the city. In case of emergency: a hospital, where you’d wait for at least 3-5 hours to be attended.
And then Scotland. I have to say, I was quite delighted that I had to pay just £200 insurance costs per year (healthcare is public and free for the British citizens, but for the immigrants on the visa there’s a small fee) as opposed to almost the same amount per month during my last year in Germany. The healthcare is called NHS here (National Health Service) and is being delivered through a GP. It means that when you arrive, first of all, you need to register with a GP in your hood. It took me about 6 months to finally get registered and 10 months till my first appointment. This is how much I don’t enjoy the whole doctor-visit-thing. I got registered to the same practice as Andrew and the process was quite straight forward because we are married. There are a few surgeries just around the corner but they don’t take any new patients unless those are family members. I had to bring the proof of address (the council tax letter), my BRP and the passport, and fill in a few forms. Registration took about two days.
I heard stories from Andrew but I simply refused to believe them. He is doesn’t have the best opinion about the NHS. A few weeks back I got the horrid flu and decided that it was finally the time to pay a visit to the doctor. Since I was coughing my lungs out, Andrew made the call and made a few appointments for me. I imagined that I would come to the GP, they will carefully listen to my family story (including cancers and other nasty stuff) and direct me to the specialists. Nope. The appointment with a GP should last only 10 min. And they will try to ‘solve’ everything right there, in the general practice. Unless you are dying you won’t be sent to any specialised practitioners. The most shocking part to me was that there’s no such thing as regular visits to a gynaecologist in Scotland: the nurse would take some samples for the test but that’s it. No ultrasounds, no general checks. FYI, Britain, on the mainland it’s a MUST for the women to visit a gyn at least once a year. I find this system very very sad. Forget all the series about the doctors trying to figure out the possibility of something being wrong with you, reality check: better try to stay healthy yourself! On a positive side, when I attended the clinic yesterday for some tests, the nurses were very kind and were happy to answer all of my questions.
I didn’t mean to moan, but man, shouldn’t healthcare be the country’s priority? A rhetorical question, I guess.