The bug saga continues, or my first brush with the NHS

I have ranted in the past about my hatred of the English screen-less windows and the flying insect infestation that results.  There has been some progress on my apartment (I do promise I will get to that eventually) and one aspect was that finally putting up curtains–translucent sheers–in my living room has actually deterred the flies enough that I have not yet resorted to the less attractive fly screens.  But a few weeks ago, before the curtains and before the weather was as cool and rainy as it has been now, I did have the windows open and I did have flying insects.  And I can prove it.  Because today I, naturally a huge sceptic of the medical profession in general and of the over-medicalization of society more specifically, had to break down and sample the UK’s loathed socialized medical system, the NHS.  I have insect bites on my leg that caused a huge allergic reaction and they have not gone away.  After a good friend of mine got very sick with Lyme disease last year, I have been a little spooked by the long-term bug bite thing so I broke down and walked into a “surgery” half-way between my home and office.  I sheepishly explained that I had been in the country for 20 months but had never “registered” with a doctor and the kind receptionist guessed that perhaps I had an urgent-ish concern that drove my into their office.  Now the amazing thing I find is that in my particular practice, this is totally usual: only 40% of appointments are ever pre-booked so it truly is a drop-in clinic.  This I must admit, I totally love.  (Maybe not as much as Yael loves housecalls, but close!)  So I did my medical history paperwork and saw a nurse within 30 minutes.  Good news: I have no worries about the bug bites, but I was putting the wrong creme on them and now I have a new one to help calm the itching and resolve the bites.  No Lyme disease.  The bad news: my blood pressure was high.  For gracious sakes, I’m 32 years old.  A little over my ideal weight perhaps (okay, definitely–although I love the low numbers that result from being weighed in kg instead of lb!) but still!  I was very, very nervous over the whole I-hate-doctors thing and the dealing-with-the-NHS thing but I’m still now on the blood pressure watchlist, as a potential “pre-hypertension” candidate.   Warning to all potential expats: living abroad may be harmful to your health.  And their medical system may or may not be able to cope!

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4 responses to “The bug saga continues, or my first brush with the NHS

  1. You can get an electronic sphygomanometer for 10 quid. I have one and I can find you one too. Some ‘white coat’ effect is normal plus you went there with thoughts like Lyme Disease in your head so stress would have contributed. Weight can have a bearing but some links are unexplained yet. An obese friend of mine (yes, I have not managed to proselytize to all yet) has persistent low BP. I will tell you my story when I see you next.

    Don’t worry. I think you are healthy else I will make sure to send you stuff you can work into a ‘programme of exercise’ for you.

  2. Hmmm…my only exposure to NHS is what I saw in ‘Sicko’ – though I am well aware of the tactics Michael Moore uses. So, how would you evaluate your experience? Or compare it with American system?

  3. Shefaly– I’ll definitely take you up on some exercise help, I was intrigued by your recent post on fitness. I was healthiest when I had a house and a treadmill in the basement, and free weights, or before that when I had a health club membership. But I also didn’t have a full time job in either of those cases!

    Amit– hard to compare at this stage. I only saw a nurse and filled out some forms, it was not a full on medical experience. The one odd thing was when the nurse had to go around to other rooms to find a scale to weigh me, because they don’t have enough to go around. I thought that was odd given how cheap a scale is–and it was just a bathroom scale she finally came back with, not the full sized balance type you see in the US. She also spent quite a while chatting with me, which is definitely something that does NOT happen in the US where you have a cattle system of fast moving from room to room and no real interaction with the staff. From a diagnostic perspective I can guess this actually works better and it would have been totally different if the doctors I had in the states actually listened to what I was saying!

    I’ll definitely keep you posted. But the one thing you do notice right away is not having to fill out lots of insurance paperwork!

  4. You’d think that putting the screens up under the sheers would look OK and really keep the flying insects at bay….?

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