An American doctor experiences an NHS emergency room

Interesting perspective on our wonderful National Health Service…

Dr. Jen Gunter

You know it’s going to be one of those days when one of the first tweets on vacation inquires about the closest hospital.

IMG_8896Victor, one of my 11-year-olds, had something in his eye courtesy of a big gust of wind outside of Westminster Abby. He was complaining enough to let me flip his eyelid and irrigate his eye on the square in front of Big Ben. (I’m sure several people thought I was torturing him).  Despite an extensive search and rinse mission no object or relief was to be found. I fretted about going to the hospital. It wasn’t the prospect of navigating a slightly foreign ER, but simply the prospect of the wait. While I am a staunch supporter of the British NHS in the back of my mind I envisioned a paralyzingly full emergency room and an agonizing 18 hour wait only to find he had nothing in his…

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3 Responses to “An American doctor experiences an NHS emergency room”

  1. There was the American politician (Republican, of course) who claimed that if Stephen Hawkins [sic] were in the UK, he would be long since dead due to the lack of quality with the NHS. Hawking himself issued a statement saying that he was happy with NHS care. (Not sure why he assumed Hawking was a US citizen; perhaps the speech-computer fooled him. By the way, Hawking and Brian Cox have a great duel in the new Monty Python show, and Hawking was in the audience.)

    Health-insurance schemes vary within Europe, but they are roughly the same when compared with the U.S. system. Twice I’ve been to a hospital outside of Germany: Once when my son fell down a mountain in Sweden, and once when another son decided to be born prematurely in Spain. In both cases, we just showed the insurance card and at least in Spain they noted down the number on it. That was it, as far as we were concerned.

  2. Politicians and other commentators in the US spout incredible amounts of lunacy about the health care systems of other countries, often while attempting to defend the ludicrous position that our system here is “the best in the world.”

    When it comes to the NHS in particular, the majority of what one hears from these people seems to me to fall into the lunatic category, but sometimes I hear critiques that strike me as not insane (which is of course not the same thing as saying “correct”). In particular, one hears that waiting times for non-emergency procedures (for some reason the example that’s always mentioned is hip replacements) are longer under the NHS than in other places and, it is claimed, longer than they should be. Moreover, there seem to have been credible allegations that the NHS has been less than honest about wait times (e.g., http://www.bbc.com/news/health-25845106)

    I’m not all that interested in a comparison with the US system in particular: I utterly concede that the US system is indefensible. I’m just curious about whether you think that this sort of critique has merit.

    Of course, this critique has nothing to do with the emergency services described in the blog post. The (non-lunatic) things I’ve heard and read about the NHS lead me to be completely unsurprised that there’s high quality of care in these instances.

    • In all such wait-time examples, not just with the NHS, it is always about non-emergency and even non-urgent things.

      I have a friend who is waiting for a kidney transplant. He actually had one a couple of years ago and it was rejected, which rarely happens. From him I have a pretty good idea about NHS care for chronically ill patients, and I agree with him that there is really nothing lacking. (When kidneys are transplanted, the old ones are not removed (unless there is a reason for doing so, i.e. something which would cause problems), so transplanted patients usually have 3, perhaps 1 functional.)

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