The above phrase means:
A) I’m going to the theatre
B) I’m going to the movies
C) I’m going into surgery
If you guessed C, you are correct!
I’m still not sure why they call it that, it certainly was not enjoyable; no one broke out in song at all and no movie was shown. But it has given me the opportunity to say in the short time I have lived here I have sampled a very wide variety of health care options available in the UK: private midwifery care, a public NHS hospital birth, public NHS general practitioner care (GP), private specialist care (leading to my surgery), and then public NHS emergency room care (after complications from my surgery). And for the children, we’ve experienced public or NHS GP care such as well baby visits and vaccinations or “baby jabs” as they are commonly referred to on this side of the pond.
I wouldn’t say I’m an expert, but I have had the fortune, or misfortune in some cases, of experiencing this myriad of health care options and in light of the recent US health care legislation, thought it might be fun to write about it.
First there are the subtle/practical differences. You can stop into your GP’s office at any time and get a weight and blood pressure reading, and its completely self-service. There’s a scale and blood pressure reader in the waiting room and it prints out your readings. At noon every day you can show up without an appointment and get a five minute, first come, first serve appointment. Nice if you just have a cold and want to rule out Strep throat, or something. My midwifery visits, as well as my Health Visitor appointment (who checks the baby 10 days after birth) were all at my home, how wonderfully convenient!
My son’s birth was at a NHS hospital. I could write an entire blog entry on the birth, and maybe I will some day, but here is a recap. I began at a private birthing center, but after 24 hours of labor and only three centimeters dialated, I transferred to the nearest hospital. I needed to rest and get some pain relief. In general, I’d say the birth was a good experience. I would have loved to stay at the birthing center, with its private room, low lights, relaxing music, and birthing pool, but my search of pain medication led me to hospital. The midwifery care at the hospital was also good. After 36 hours of labor, my beautiful son was born. I left the hospital 5 hours later.
My surgery was in a private hotel, er, I mean hospital. Seriously, it resembled a hotel more and more. There is a check-in desk as you enter, a porter comes to show you to your room, and your service menu includes beer, wine and a variety of delicious-sounding meal choices. I wondered what would happen if a patient on some serious medication that doesn’t mix with alcohol decided to order a beer? Did I mention the flat screen TV? I should disclose I didn’t choose this hospital, it was chosen by my surgeon as this is where he practices. But it was as nice a surgery experience as I could have hoped. Had I known about this private hospital before my son was born, I may have chosen to have him there.
I’d say my trip to the emergency room was similar to a US experience. Crowded waiting area, patients taken back according to severity of problem, understaffed from the patients perspective. I was lucky to get into a room in about 10 minutes, but waited about two hours to see a doctor. I watched from the open door more serious medical cases coming in. I will say I was pleasantly surprised to have a breast pump brought to my room on request (as I have a five month old infant at home). I was sent on my way a total of about 3 hours from entry, which I really didn’t think was bad, given it was a Saturday night. It is very anti-climatic as you leave as there is no bill, not even any paperwork. You just get up and go. You can read more about the NHS here, but basically “free at the point of delivery” is one of its guiding principles.
On the way home, my mini-cab driver casually asked how long I had to wait and when I told him about three hours, start to finish he commented, “that’s good; my last visit here was 8 hours long.”