Sunday 3 August 2008


Compare my “French family’s” health care schedule with OG’s. My SIL has arthritis and was feeling unwell and my daughter suspected that my grandson has a hernia. It was decided that a trip to the doctor was in order and this is how it went:

Thursday 07.45pm - Called doctor’s surgery for two appointments
Friday 10.45am - They both saw a doctor at the same time
Friday 11.30am – The doctor confirmed that my grandson probably does have a hernia and made an appointment for him to see the professor at a top children's hospital.
Friday 12.00pm - SIL had an X-ray taken which was handed to him
Friday 12.15pm - SIL’s bloods taken and results available on website at 4pm
Monday 09.00am – SIL has appointment to see doctor to discuss blood and X-Ray

My daughter than commented that although they had to pay, the experience was so different from the UK and she wonders how could we have got it so wrong? I know what she is talking about because it is the same in Switzerland. They don’t have any understanding of waiting lists. They simply don’t exist.

First let me say that although she had to pay she is saving a fortune by NOT having to pay a National Insurance contribution of 11% towards a “free” NHS. To this 11% a similar amount is payable by the employer. As a company the NI portion of our monthly PAYE cheque is higher than the IR contribution The amount that we pay is scandalous and the service that we get for it is 3rd world class.

In Switzerland it‘s compulsory for everyone to pay into a private health insurance scheme of their choice according to their means. People on low income don’t pay but have exactly the same health care as people who have paid into the scheme. There is a “one tier” system free at the point of delivery. You don’t have to “sign on” with a doctor. They work a free market system and you have choice in the practice you attend. For example you may prefer a GP that specialises in diabetes. This keeps the doctors on their toes and they have to give good service otherwise you vote with your feet.

Back to OG’s schedule. He was backward and forward to the GP from mid July to mid October when we had to cut short our visit to America because he was in so much pain. He was referred to a consultant who sodded around until 21st December when he confirmed OG had bladder cancer, referred him to a surgeon who also sodded around until 18th March and finally operated on him. By this time the cancer had travelled into his prostrate and two of the six lymph nodes examined.

Then there was the post-op farce. He was scheduled to see the Uri-Oncological Nurse Practitioner for 6 to 8 consecutive weeks. On week 3 OG was not well enough to travel the 150 mile round trip and we cancelled the appointment. This was on 14th April. The following week another appointment was set for 27th JULY! We tried to get an earlier date but were jerked around so much and finally gave up trying.

Throughout all this OG has been experiencing problems with his bowels and would like to know if this is usual following this operation or is it something that needs attention. The GP wrote to the surgeon to get him an appointment. He didn’t get a reply. The chemo nurse rang the surgeon’s secretary to get him an appointment and he still didn’t reply. The chemo nurse then told the oncologist and he finally got OG an appointment to see the surgeon next Monday. It’s all a total nightmare.

And do you know the scariest thing about this? OG has private health insurance and has probably been treated better than he would if he were a NHS patient!


Strawberry Jam Anne said...

Dear RAC - we do seem to be lacking with our health service especially when comparing to other countries and often it certainly does appear to be a 'post code lottery' as to what sort of service you get. It is scary though that even though OG has private health insurance things are moving so slowly at a time when you need answers NOW. I have to say that so far my family and I have been lucky with the NHS and long may it continue.

I wish OG and you all the very best. A x

Mozi Esme said...

Sounds like a fun (er - filled) life . . . Wishing you the best!

Anonymous said...

I really do think it's time we admitted we have a two-tier health system and made it work properly that way. As it is now, we can't opt out of the NHS, and there are doctors with feet in both camps. I've noticed that the private health care we can get is less good in some areas that it used to be, too.

Sorry OG is having such trouble getting things done at a time when it's so important. I wish him luck getting his follow up appt ASAP and with getting some answers. said...

Thnk you so much for your good wishes Anne said...

Yes, it certainly has been fun filled moziesme

aims said...

Oh damn! I had bladder cancer and they operated the day after they discovered it. Then they operated again 3 days later as they knew they hadn't got all of it.

I sat here wondering if your husband would have gotten prostrate cancer anyway - or if it would have been a different story. I'm thinking anyway as cancer has its own designs on our bodies.

However - I'm appalled at the wait times and the lack of communication! Especially for someone with cancer. It's too bad you just couldn't have gone somewhere else and gotten treatment - faster - more efficiently.

We don't have THE BEST health system in the world...but it is pretty good. We still complain anyway.

Was (or is) your husband a smoker? I only ask as I know bladder cancer has been directly related to smoking.

I think about him quite a bit in my life - and keep hoping the best for him.

The frustration levels is not condusive to healing....damn that system! said...

Jay I think that problem is that we now have a 3 tier health system. When my husband complained to our consultant nephew about having to wait so long despite being private he said "ah, but now there's Private and there's Holywood Private". It's scary. said...

Aims, it's a long story of mis-diagnosis and incorrect biopsies, but I do believe that if the cancer had been detected earlier it wouldn't have passed into the prostrate and then the lymph nodes. OG stopped smoking about 25 years ago, but he did (and still does) drink copious amounts of diet drinks which in the UK contain aspartane, which I believe is banned in many countries because it is a carcinogen.

Racheal Miles said...

I live in France and fortunately haven't needed to use the healthcare for anything serious, however when we have used it we have been very impressed with the service and care that was provided.

I hope all turns out well for OG.

Racheal x said...

Hi Rachael, thanks for your visit. My daughter, her husband and two youngest children moved to France last January. They love it.

Anonymous said...

This sounds so bad. I had such a different NHS experience last autumn - Gp, scan, GP, gynae consultant, surgery, biopsy results/gynae consultant, oncology consultant, start of chemotherapy all within 7 weeks. Any faster and my stress levels would have beent through the roof; it was just about the right speed for me to cope with everything. However, the GP did comment recently that she thought it all seemed to take a very long time.

I was given a date for surgery the afternoon that I saw the consultant, with the operation a week later and I started chemo within 3 weeks of the surgery. I was kept very well informed all the way along.

So it's not all bad; perhaps it depends too much on where you are and the individual consultants you're dealing with. said...

I think that you have a good point there guineapigmum. Health care is very much a post code lottery in England and there are rumours that us oldies are not considered top priority either. So we seem to be in a lose, lose situation here. It shouldn't be like this but I'm glad for your sake that you are in a area of the UK that is well catered for.