I've had so many people, including American relatives ask me "what IS the British National Health Service like?" Even though I have a degree in politics, let me tell you that as much as possible....this blog is NOT political. I will share my experience but I will not be using this site to push you into politcal stances.
With that political disclaimer out of the way, let me say there is no truely "British" National Health. The service you get is different from town to town, never mind the differences between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There are some structual similarities, but so far the questions have been more about the experience from the user end; in other words "what's it LIKE!"
So, let me tell you how I found the service at the nhs yesterday. Our nearest town is Farnham in Surrey. (This is when English friends go "Oh.....Surrey," because Surrey gets everything, and by that I mean the best of everything.) It's not that all of us are rich, but we talk alot. And we live near London (so many of us are commuters) so you can't fob us off with old ways of doing things. I say "we" because as a long term expat, I have one of those little nhs cards, along with the privilege of paying taxes.
Back to yesterday. I had received a letter saying that though the latest research states that a woman should only have a mammogramme once every three years, my doctor had recommended everyone in her practice to "have another one" as long as it had been over a year since our last one. Following me? I called Rebecca...I mean, Dr Reynolds and checked that there wasn't anything wrong with me. (A little paranoia that maybe this was her polite way of getting me for a recheck when something might be wrong.) She said she just wanted a latest report....a screening of all her female patients, and truely, everyone was "invited." I could turn it down.
I thought of the millions of women, including women in the USA where having a mammogramme would be an answer to prayer, so I duely went along. The Farnham hospital is mostly a new facility, with new wings having being built by selling off some land they owned. The breast screening clinic wasn't in the new bit. In fact, the clinic was in a mobile unit that seems to be visiting our hospital parking lot for a few weeks.
I went in and sat with two other women (no large waiting room with fresh coffeee and tea that you find in the breast screening home base in Guildford -our nearest large town where I had been before) but it was clean, with pleasant colors (very important to me) and a friendly Irish nurse who called my name the moment I walked in. I was just hearing a very good story from one of the waiting women about her granny who had recently died at 91 when I was called in for my check up. Moving right along, let me say these new machines are not painful with their plastic bits like the old metal machines ages ago and somehow it is a comfort that the nurse doesn't go racing out of the room while you hear a radiation buzz!
Two minutes later, I was thanked for coming (no, " thank you!"), quickly changed in a bright colored cubicle and slipped out the back door to my husband waiting in the car. Drive in mammogrammes!