Well, today I had my first experience with the National Health Service here in the United Kingdom. It's funny, because for the past few years, I rarely ever get sick. I've had such a strong immune system, and for me to catch even just a minor cold was pretty rare. So, when I knew that I had to register with a doctor here in the UK as soon as possible to be able to receive treatment in the future, I admit...I put it off a little bit. Partly due to the fact that I wasn't sure exactly what I needed to do. It couldn't truly be as simple as filling out a one page form and handing it over to the reception in my hall, could it?
Yes, it could...and it was. Earlier this week I filled out a form with my general details, nothing out of the ordinary. It took maybe all of two minutes to complete, put in an envelope, and hand over to reception. From there, they send the forms to the practice and voila, you're registered with the NHS. Pretty awesome, huh?
My hall affiliates with a very close-by practice - it's about a two minute walk from my front door. I also had the option to register with the UCL practice, but hey; I figured this was closer, and they probably accept a heck of a lot less patients than the UCL one. So I went with the one my hall recommended.
Now, like I said, I rarely get sick. I was honestly questioning whether or not I thought I'd ever need to see a doctor here. Oh, naive little Hayley. I guess I hadn't thought of the fact that I'd be in close quarters with 350 other students from all around the world, bringing new germs that I hadn't yet been exposed to. //palm-to-face.
I've been feeling a little under the weather for the past week, and I woke up with some wheezing this morning. I used to have problems with chronic bronchitis in my teen years, which involved nebulizer treatments and the whole nine yards, so I thought, well...it's Friday. I should nip this in the bud and get it checked out in case it gets any worse over the weekend and I won't have options other than going to Accident & Emergency (similar to the emergency room back home).
I went to walk-in hours at my practice this morning, and had been sitting in the waiting room no less than five minutes before a doctor called me in. Wow! That is already vastly different from home. She listened to me thoroughly explain my symptoms, asked me a few questions, examined me and listened to my breathing, and fully discussed her diagnosis with me afterwards. The trip was no less than exceptional...well, as far as doctor's visits go.
Now, I'm writing this mainly because I wasn't sure what to expect from the NHS. Sure, I've studied it a bit, and have talked with people about it; but I wasn't sure what a personal experience for an international student would entail. Some say that since the system is "free" (though it obviously isn't quite for UK nationals - taxes go towards it), the quality is lesser than health systems in countries like America. I can honestly say that I have no negative aspects to report, whatsoever. I know it was just a small and minor appointment, but if any future visits (god forbid) happen to be deemed necessary, I will be going into the office with confidence that they truly do care about helping me, and will do so with a good quality of care. I also find it very commendable that international students are able to utilize the system (depending on certain factors such as the length of one's academic course) like pretty much any other UK citizen can. I guess the British government realizes that these students are spending a considerable amount of money to study and live here, so they deserve the health care that the system has to offer. I think that's a terrific policy.