Tag Archives: complaint about nhs

The Shocking Experiences of University Students with Britain’s Health Service

13 Jan

If you’re planning on moving to the UK, this is something you need to read. And if you don’t like reading, I made you a video:

This morning I was awakened by my friend’s pleas for help: her bladder infection had worsened overnight and, becoming too painful to ignore, she needed help getting to the Foresterhill Emergency Care Center in Aberdeen. As students, we cannot casually afford hiring taxis, so we met on King Street and undertook the long walk to Foresterhill. For the kind readers unaware of this distance, on a good day, this walk takes 40 mins. Walking with a lady with a painful infection, it will take up to 1 hour.

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When we finally reached the double doors of the emergency room, we were exhausted from walking and my friend was in worse pain. We quickly told the receptionist the problem and were almost settling to sit down and wait, when she replied: “I’m sorry, but we don’t accept bladder infections. That’s a problem for your GP.”

For the non-UK residents reading this: a GP is a General Practitioner, your local doctor. When you move to the UK, you can only register with the GP center in your living area and you will be provided with free service by the NHS (National Health Service).

Now the receptionist was turning us away because, as we understood it, we were arriving at the emergency room at an hour when all GPs are open. Therefore, why should the hospital accept us when doctors are open?

To say we were shocked would be an understatement. I repeated our request to the receptionist, adding: “But we are here now. We just walked for an hour to get here and my friend is in terrible pain.” The receptionist bounced off to ask a doctor on his opinion, and when she turned, she confirmed our disbelief: we would not be attended by a doctor in this emergency room because GPs are open.

At this point, the receptionist broke into a broad sunny smile and joyfully said to us : “Have a nice day!”

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You could argue that now that we’ve learnt a further rule of the NHS, we won’t bother making the 1-hour walk across the city to the hospital if it is daytime. The issue at hand is not the appalling fact that in United Kingdom, treatment can be refused to you in a hospital; the issue at hand is that the NHS functions according to several rules that foreigners moving to the UK are simply not prepared for.

 

Firstly:  It’s Not That Easy To See Your GP 

After being turned away by the ER, we discussed doing as the receptionist had suggested and seeing my friend’s GP. The issue is that GPs don’t accept walk-ins. A GP will only see you if you have an appointment. Requesting an appointment can put you on a 1-2 week waiting list.

In the case of an emergency, you can request to speak to a doctor and leave your phone number. The doctor will then call you, ask about your symptoms and prescribe medication over the phone without ever seeing you in person. I am not exaggerating. I went through this process in September 2014. In fact, the doctor requested that I provide a urine sample in a case I could pick up at the pharmacy, (and I quote) “pop it in the mail and it will go straight to the microbiologists”.

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Secondly:  An Emergency Does Not Mean the Ambulance Will Pick You Up

Last year, my former flatmate fell down the stairs at the university. She immediately called the emergency and requested an ambulance. She was denied one because (and I quote) she was conscious. As long as she was conscious and not bleeding heavily, the ambulance would not pick her up. Demanding how she should then get to the emergency room, the NHS replied: “Call a taxi.”

Without any alternatives, my flatmate called a taxi only to be told (and this is unfortunately quite common in Aberdeen) that all taxis were busy until 6pm. Almost crying with frustration, she finally got in touch with a friend with a car who drove her to the hospital.

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Is this the message the United Kingdom, and Scotland, wish to portray to international and European students? By offering free higher education with an open scheme, Aberdeen is an attraction choice – but what if the medical service cannot take care of these students? For at the moment, the message we university students are receiving, is that we may receive excellent higher education, but there is no guarantee of efficient health service; no guarantee of being examined by a doctor; we may be prescribed medication over the phone; and/or be turned away by hospital emergency rooms.

I did not move to the UK in order to critise it. I enjoy living in Scotland greatly: the University of Aberdeen teaches at a high level, I have a great job here and an international array of friends. Of course as a foreigner I must learn the rules of the public sector – but speaking for many other students I must say: We fear becoming seriously ill in the UK for we don’t believe the NHS will provide an efficient service.

I therefore request that when the university tells its newly-enrolled students to register with a local GP, they also explain all the hoops the students will have to jump through in order to actually receive health care. Don’t let us find out these hoops on our own, when our health is in critical condition.

These Are the NHS Rules I Know: 

  1. Don’t bother going to see your doctor when you have a problem. Call the GP on the phone and request to speak to a doctor.
  2. Don’t bother going to the hospital during GP opening hours. The hospital will refuse to let a doctor see you.
  3. Forget ambulances. Make friends with someone who has a car. No one else will help you.
  4. When you’re healthy, make an appointment to see your GP and only then will you be able to speak to them about the health issues worrying you. The receptionist at the GP couldn’t understand why I wanted an appointment when I was perfectly healthy, so I told her: “I prefer making an appointment when I’m healthy than being turned away when I’m sick.”

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And Finally, I would like to add a personal remark to the receptionist who attended us this morning. You may work as part of a medical health system that we haven’t fully understood; one which thinks it justified to turn away patients in pain; one which doesn’t consider the pain and frustration of having to return home on foot, walking for one hour, after a futile mission to a health institution you trusted would help you. But at least have the decency and basic human compassion to not smile in our faces as you slam shut the reception window, wishing us “a good day” when you know that you have just denied a person in pain her right to see a doctor and are sending her on a painful walk home.

If you’re going to work in a hospital, at least have that much basic human compassion.

Thank you for reading this. 

With Love, for Jenny. 

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