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24 Hours in Lincoln County Hospital

hospitalinstagram Thursday to Friday last week I was on the Shuttleworth Ward at the Lincoln County Hospital for what amounted to 24 hours. The care I had in hospital was excellent, and the staff there even waived the visiting hours rule for me since I was brought in as an emergency case and my status was unknown for large parts of Thursday evening and Friday afternoon. But before I get to that, let me explain what was going on with me, in a sort of diary form as that’s the easiest way for me to get everything out.

30 December 2013
I woke up with a very large, very painful lump/bump on my neck. A call to my regular GP yielded no available appointments, so a trip to the Monk’s Road Walk-In Centre was made. At the clinic, the nurse diagnosed me with an Abscess and prescribed Flucloxacillin, with instructions to seek medical help if the pain or swelling got worse.

31 December 2013
I was wheeling around Waitrose and started to feel ill in general. I don’t even remember going through the tills, but I did stop in the cafe for my freebie cup of tea (Peppermint, I thought to calm my stomach) and a sandwich. Well, I wasn’t able to eat my sandwich and only could sip at my tea because the pain was getting worse by the minute and the pain was spiking up into my head and across my shoulders to the point where I was holding in tears. After talking to my husband, it was decided that I needed to get to A&E and my options were waiting for the bus, going home and waiting for Tim to get home, or asking someone to take me. Fortunately, Tim works with someone who was coming on to relieve Tim and he happened to live near to where I was, so he gave me a lift to the hospital.

While there, I was sent straight up to the ENT Clinic and the doctor there diagnosed me with Cellulitis and prescribed a higher dose of Flucloxacillin and some Codeine for the pain. He set me an appointment in two weeks, where it should “be the size of a pea” and he would be able to easily cut it out. Oh, if only we had a crystal ball…..

1 January 2014
I woke up completely disoriented and didn’t even know where I was. A text message full of gibberish went to Tim who was at work, and I eventually got it together enough to ring 111. 111 sent me to the After Hours GP at the hospital, where it was determined that I was having a reaction to the codeine and was prescribed Naproxen (Alieve! Hey, I know that drug!) instead. The after hours GP also told me this wasn’t an abscess or cellulitis, but was a sebaceous cyst.

2 – 4 January 2014
The cyst got bigger.

5 January 2014
Just as we were getting ready to welcome friends to a garden railway party, I started to feel amazing. No pain whatsoever, but…what’s that smell? I went all over the house trying to find the source of this smell before I said to Tim “I think it’s me” and he looked at my neck and sure enough, the cyst had exploded. It wasn’t a burst, so much as an explosion. Friends came to the rescue once again and our local friend Sue took me into A&E so Tim could stay with our guests. At A&E they drained it….which was really painful and told me I “wouldn’t need to be seen again” for this issue. Again, where’s that crystal ball?

6 January 2014
Yep, it got bigger again.

7 January 2014
I noticed hives on my arm and back, and just assumed it was from the dust we kicked up cleaning the workshop earlier in the da, so I took some antihistamine and went to bed.

8 January 2014
I had a routine appointment with my dermatologist and showed her my neck. She was alarmed at the size of it and said I needed to see an ENT urgently (good thing I had the appointment already booked) and made noises about plastic surgery on my neck to remove the “capsule”. Yikes. She also refilled my flucloxacillin, but when I told her about the hives, she advised that it could be the flucloxacillin and to keep an eye on things and if the hives got worse to seek medical attention or come in to see her.

Later that night, the hives came back. I wound up ringing 111 and going into after hours to get my prescription changed to Erythromycin, and the GP there advised that I have my GP office add an allergy to Penicillin to my record.

9 January 2014
Despite being off the flucloxacillin, the hives got WORSE. Painfully worse. My fingers were swelling, my wrist were swelling, and my hands were painful. I rang my GP office as it was still during their open hours and I was told to come straight in. I saw Dr Nellist who took one look at me, measured the abscess (which had grown and started to weep), took my vitals, and said “I’m ringing the hospital and sending you there”. eeek!

I got to the hospital around 7PM. We had no idea what was going on, but then Tim saw my name up on their board that shows who is in what bed and we both said “uh-oh”. Tim stayed with me and I was seen by the ENT within an hour who prescribed an IV antibiotic and an IV anti histamine. The plan was to drain the abscess, but at this point they weren’t sure if it would be that night or the following day. They finally decided to wait until morning, and told me I could eat until 3AM. At this point, Tim went home to get me some things for overnight (pyjamas, a blanket, entertainment) and some food. He came back around 11PM and helped me change (hard to do with an IV stuck in your arm!) and I got into bed. The nurse offered to bring me toast and tea around 230 in the morning so I’d have something in my stomach in the morning just in case. They also added an IV drip around 6AM of what they called a “meal in a bag”. You might recall the last time I was in hospital I had to ask for this, so I was happy to not need to ask!

10 January 2014
A very nice trio of doctors came to see me and the consultant wanted it to be drained that morning. However, the junior doctor didn’t feel comfortable doing it since she hadn’t done it before on a neck, so I had to wait for the other doctor to be free. After finding out it wouldn’t happen in the morning, they decided to feed me Lunch, but I was advised to take it easy on the food just in case, so I just had a salad.

The surgeon came past just as I was walking to the loo and told me he was going to do it now, so I hurried back. The whole procedure took maybe 20 minutes under local anesthesia, but it still was really painful. Tim arrived partway through and I told him to stay away because it was really gross! After he was done, the surgeon advised for me to stick around for another hour but he didn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t be able to leave as long as I had no complications and to keep it dry for 48 hours.

Of course, there were complications. They came in the form of a lovely ring of hives on my back and across my chest. Crap. So, more anti histamines and IV antibiotics and I needed to see a doctor to determine if they needed me to stay another night. The anti histamine worked, so the doctor decided to release me into the care of my GP if the hives came back and they gave me prescriptions for Clindamycin and an anti histamine.

10 – 11 January 2014
I was okay, but the dressing came off so Tim had to help me apply a new one. It was bleeding a little, but nothing to be concerned about.

12 January 2014
I decided to take a bath, and Tim and I had a date night, a lovely meal out at Ask! Italian followed by the latest Hobbit film. I only had a small plaster over my neck and all was well, so we went to bed.

13 January 2014
This morning, I woke up with my hair covered in blood. At some point overnight my movement caused it to burst again. A phone call into my GP had me going in to see the nurse, who gave me some dressings with stronger adhesives and took a look at it. She discovered that there is still a core inside my neck several inches long and I would need more antibiotics, so I was given some Erythromycin again, and a follow-up appointment for Thursday. Tomorrow I see the ENT (the original appointment given to me by A&E way back on the 30th), so we will see what happens. Like I said, the dermatologist wants me to see a plastic surgeon, so we shall see what happens.

But let’s sum this up…in the past two weeks I have been to:

-a walk-in clinic
-A & E 2x
-seen an ENT doctor 3x
-After hours appointments 2x
-admitted to hospital for 24 hours
-on-call/emergency GP appointments 2x
-seen my dermatologist

and been prescribed:

-Flucloxacillin 3x
-Codeine
-Naproxen
-Erythromycin 2x
-Clindamycin
-Chlorpheniramine
plus 3x antibiotics via IV and 2x antihistamine via IV

as well as had minor surgery.

Because I have a pre-pay prescription certificate the total cost out of pocket to us for all of this care? about £10 in parking fees.

Who exactly thinks national healthcare is a bad thing again?

PS: Yes, I have photos of my neck day-by-day but they really are too gross to post!

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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[NaBloPoMo] Pre-Pay your Prescriptions on the NHS

ObamaCare has been in the news a lot lately because it’s finally starting to go into effect in January (I think). As an American who resides abroad for more than 335 days per year, I don’t need to sign up for a plan. From what I understand, this isn’t trying to restrict Americans abroad to only visiting the US for 25 days each year, but it is restricting us to calling a visit to the US a visit. As in, we can’t call an address in the US our “home address”. Which sounds a bit odd since they use your last lived at address in the US as your “home address” for voting purposes, but at least I don’t have to sign up for a healthcare plan in the US I’d only be able to use occasionally. Instead, I have traveler’s insurance. But this isn’t the point of my daily post today. It’s just an a way of explaining where my train of thought wandered to today.

The point of my post is to tell you all that I love the NHS and their pre-pay certificates. No, really. I live in England, where we still pay for our prescriptions (Scotland and Wales get freebies), but we have a pre-pay scheme where you can pre-pay for 3 or 12 months in one go if you are on long-term prescriptions but don’t yet qualify for free ones. I recently switched from a 3-month certificate to a 12 month one for a little over £100 (single prescriptions cost £7.85) as I refill my Metformin every 28 days, my Zineryt every 5 weeks, and my Hibiscrub usually every other month. I switched because recently, after visiting a Dermatologist, I was given two new creams and a wash and I also have been on prescription pain relievers for my knee. Those 7 prescriptions would have cost me £54.95, or more than HALF of what my pre-pay certificate cost. I pay for my pre-pay certificate in monthly installments of £10, so it’s slightly more than the cost of one prescription.

Again, this isn’t an option for everyone, in fact it only becomes valid if you know you will be on at least 14 prescriptions in the year. Since no one can predict if they will need 14 in a year, I would say go with if you need 2 or more per month. The three-month pre-pay certificate costs just under £30, so that is a good option if you will be on more than 4 prescriptions in a 3-month period…and here’s the beauty of it. You can BACK DATE your pre-pay by up to 30 days. So let’s say you visit your GP and find out that you have a skin infection. You get handed a prescription for antibiotic pills, a cream, a daily scrub, and some sticky pads to cover it with. You can walk into your chemist and request a “blue” reciept when you pay, go home, apply for a three-month pre-pay certificate, have it valid as of yesterday, and then once it comes in the mail go back to the chemist with your card and blue receipt and get your money back. Brilliant.

It’s just one more reason why I love the NHS….

[Please note I do not get compensated for talking about the NHS. I just honestly love it that much!]

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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Adventures with A&E

I know I haven’t updated in a while, and I’m hoping NaBloPoMo in November will jump start me, but in the meantime I thought I would write a post to expand on what I’ve been posting on Facebook.

Last night around 2 in the morning I had to go to A&E for my knee, but let me backtrack and tell you what happened….

My knee had been hurting for the past few days. I was chalking it up to the change in the weather (quite literally we went from the upper teens/lower 20s to single digits overnight) or maybe I was developing arthritis (I joked on FB that I was too young for arthritis), but while we were in the US we went to a train museum and when I was getting down off one of the engines it had a particularly high step and I remember telling Tim after I climbed down that my knee hurt and I wasn’t going to climb on any more trains. It might have hurt the following day and on-and-off for the rest of the trip, but it was never anything really horrible that a hot shower or regular pain relievers didn’t take care of.

Yesterday, the pain seemed to increase throughout the day and I actually wound up in bed with the bedwarmer as a heating pad earlier in the evening. I had plans that included getting up and showering before Tim got home from his overnight shift (because our boiler is in a closet in the same room as the bed is currently if I use the hot water while Tim is sleeping the noise of the boiler wakes him), then going back to sleep for an hour or two before being picked up for my chorus’ open workshop that took place today. That didn’t happen. Instead, when I went up the stairs to go to bed, my left knee completely gave way from underneath me after I turned the corner (we have a tight spiral staircase that turns back on itself on a landing 3/4 of the way up). I managed to pull myself up on the banister, and limped down the hallway and managed to get onto the bed, where I texted Tim and told him what happened.

Tim wrote back and asked me if I was in pain and I told him that the pain was making me cry, so he suggested ringing 111* to ask them for advice. The first guy I got was a call centre person with no medical training and he asked me all sorts of weird questions that had no relevance and in the end told me that since I wasn’t bleeding or feverish that I should wait and go see my GP on Monday. I asked him what I should do about the pain because it was making me cry and he transferred me to a nurse. The nurse advised going to A&E as soon as I was able because she suspected a torn ligament and said I would need an X-ray and strapping up. I rang Tim back and told him what was suggested and he said he would get home to take me as soon as he was able to get someone to take over where he was.

I think we got to A&E around 2AM. Surprisingly, the waiting area was pretty empty and I was told there were three people ahead of me after I went through triage and it wouldn’t be a long wait. But then we started hearing screaming coming from behind the door and a nurse came out and asked the receptionist if the police were at the hospital and then three carloads of police showed up! Yikes. Still don’t know what that was about, but when I was finally called back two police officers were stationed right near the entrance to the examining area.

The doctor I saw was an intern and he admitted to me that he had no experience with orthopedics. He bent my knee this way and that way and sideways and based on the crunch and crackle (seriously, my knee sounded like walking on gravel does) he determined that it probably wasn’t a ligament, but was a meniscus tear (cartilage) and that an x-ray wouldn’t help since cartilage doesn’t show up on an x-ray. So he told me to make an appointment with my GP on Monday because I would need physio and to stay off it for about a week….but he didn’t give me a brace or anything to keep it immobile. He also gave me a prescription for Diclofenac but told me the hospital pharmacy was closed for the night and I would have to take it to an after hours.

We left and headed for the Boots at the Carleton center only to find it completely dark and no afterhours window open. Puzzled, I fired up google to find out that at that particular time (nearly 5AM) there was not a single pharmacy open in Lincoln. Nice. So we headed home and I took some Naproxen I brought back from the US.

I tried to get comfortable in bed and immediately put myself in pain when I tried to get into my usual sleeping position (knees slightly bent). I still had my knee brace from 1998 when I had surgery on my right knee, so I had Tim get it out for me and I stuck in on my left knee. I was asleep, finally, by 7AM. I woke up around 10 to go to the loo and with the knee brace the steps were a piece of cake. When I woke up again around 3PM I took off the brace (since the hospital told me I did’t need one) and I was in a ton of pain going down the steps. I think I will be asking my GP for a brace on Monday. While the one I had worked, it wasn’t designed for the left side so all the fastenings are on the wrong side.

So I’m pretty immobile for the weekend until I can get in with my GP on Monday. I’m going to go back upstairs now and get into bed. I have my laptop and my kindle, both with BBC iPlayer and LoveFilm to keep me company.

Oh, and PS to my American friends – My trip to A&E didn’t cost me a cent. I’ll only have to pay for my prescription, but I pre-pay for those (unlimited prescriptions for about £12/mo) so I won’t even have to hand over any cash when I pick it up, either.


*111 is a service in the UK that replaced NHS Direct. Basically, you can ring 111 when your GP office is closed for advice and they will help you determine if you need to go to A&E, an after hours GP, or wait until the morning when your GP office is open. For more information: http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/AboutNHSservices/Emergencyandurgentcareservices/Pages/NHS-111.aspx

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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Myths about the NHS as related to ObamaCare

I was reading the thread on We Survived Bush about MissM’s photo, and this gem of a comment about life in Europe popped up:

Have u been to Europe? If u consider greater quality of life living in places that are old, outdated, everything is compact and not to many modern conveniences, I guess maybe u should move there. Sorry, I like my new house, granite counter tops, having a new car every couple of yrs, etc..

And I can’t help but laugh. I think she watched Lord of the Rings and thinks we all live in dirt huts and dig holes to go to the bathroom. Or maybe she watched a film that takes place in East Germany in the 1960s. Or does she think we all live in massive, sprawling estates like Downton Abbey or in a castle like Hogwarts? I mean, seriously? Define modern conveniences. I have running water in my house, I have electricity. I have a phone line and I have a TV. I have a washing machine (that’s a combo with a dryer) and an electric shower. I also live in an 1840s farm house, but there are plenty of new builds popping up all over the place.

I also happen to have a coal-burning fire place and a coke-burning stove, but that’s also because I live in an 1840s farmhouse and we actually LIKE having a coal fire (don’t talk to me about the stove).

You can have central heating if you want, you can have dish washers, satellite TV, video gaming systems (we have a Wii), computers (writing this on my netbook, which is next to the desktop and I can see my husband’s laptop bag, too), mobile phones – sorry, cell phones…even iphones if you want ’em.

We have more brands of cars than are available in North America and hey – modern cars like Jaguar, Audi, Volvo, and Volkswagen are all made in Europe. All that AND a decent public transportation system. From my house, I can get to Germany in about 5 hours via public transit from London. Unless you live near the Canadian or Mexican border, can YOU get to a foreign country by train in 5 hours? Or drive through 5 countries in one day?

All that AND healthcare. The rest of the European Union will be much the same.

Tell me again how Europe doesn’t have modern conveniences?

Another comment I frequently see states that we have long waiting lists in England and they don’t want this happening in the US. Below is my reply.

The “waiting lists” here are no different than waiting in the US for your insurance to approve a specialist (which as I remember, can take months), but if you are faced with a life-threatening emergency, you will be put at the top of the queue. I needed non life-threatening emergency surgery in 2010. I was send to A&E (that’s the UK term for ER) by the after hours GP I went to see and stayed in the hospital for 3 days waiting for an open slot for surgery because I *could* wait. If it was life-or-death, they would have rolled me into surgery at 2 in the morning. The longest I personally have had to wait for an appointment has been one month, and I chalk that down just to availability as I received the appointment within one week of being told I needed it.

The thing you have to remember about the British society is that as a whole we tend to like to complain more than praise things. But I can tell you firsthand that the NHS works. My husband still has his father alive thanks to the NHS and his family has never had to worry about where the money was coming from to pay the bills from his kidney transplant. My husband’s best mate had his leg amputated due to an accident over 20 years ago, and he has to go to a special hospital to have a new leg fitted every two years or so and he never has to worry about not being able to feed his family because he has to have a stay n the hospital and a new leg so frequently.

I’m a housewife and an immigrant and I receive the same level of care as anyone else….and I’ve even contributed to the cost of the NHS as the NHS is partially funded through VAT (sales tax).

It’s such a relief to know that when my husband and I decide we are ready to start our family that we do no need to worry about the costs of giving birth or being able to afford doctors if there are complications during the pregnancy. So many of my friends in the US give birth and then are faced with thousands of dollars in hospital bills.

And birth control? FREE. No matter if you are a visitor, immigrant, or citizen.

Th NHS might not be perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better than my options ever were when I lived in the US, including when I had HMO care through my job at a bank. Even with monthly premiums of over $300, I still had to pay loads out of pocket for a spinal tap to determine if I had MS (I don’t, thankfully), not to mention the follow-up care and subsequent ER visit when the pain relievers didn’t work!

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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Another Update on my Arm….

It’s not yet been a week since my surgery, but the nurse I see at the GP practice is amazed at how well it’s healing up. There’s barely any packing in it at all today, and she thinks that by the end of the week I’ll be able to just change the dressing on my own.

There is no sign of any infection either.

From the amount of packing pulled out last Thursday, and the results of my ultrasound, I know the infection ran really deep, so it’s quite a relief to have it all out. The fact that I’m healing super fast just goes to show how much better it was to finally cut out the infection instead of keep on shoving various antibiotics down my throat. I don’t blame the GP at all – I know surgery is always the last option, but when I had been dealing with this problem since December 2009….seems to me like surgery should have been obvious to the GP. But anyway. It’s happened and it’s gone, so that’s all that matters.

Since December 2009, when I first saw a doctor about this problem, here’s the breakdown of meds:

10 weeks of various antibiotics, each one getting stronger than the previous one
20 weeks on a combination antibiotic/steroid cream (used it every other week though, so I suppose only 10 weeks)
9 Months + on Zineryt (5 months to get rid of initial infections, currently using it to keep infections at bay)

I have an open office document about to spill onto it’s fifth page documenting everything related to the armpit infections, including every single visit to the nurse or GP. Since December 2009 I have had 16 GP appointments because of this problem and 30 nurse appointments (and counting). 4 visits to the After Hours GP, and one visit to A&E. It took the visit to A&E to get the problem sorted out once and for all (at least, we hope!).

If I get another infection in the other armpit, I think I’m going to just ask them for surgery right away. A week or two of recovering from surgery is so much better than constantly being on antibiotics and creams and having ugly colourful goo coming out of my armpits — I ruined MANY shirts in the past year and a half thanks to this mess!

Also, for those of you in the UK – don’t forget about prescription pre-payment. I just filled out the forms and paid for three months for £29 and with everything I had to pick up today I nearly broke even. (there’s also a yearly option for £104) It’s a good option if you have to pay for prescriptions and know you will be put on several at once.

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, or the RSS feed(s), please notify me.

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Healthcare Costs

First, I should explain – The NHS is not free. We do not pay for GP visits, specialist visits, or hospital stays out of pocket, but we do pay for prescriptions (at least in England), eye exams, dental exams, and a few other things. Even with few out of pocket expenses, it still does not make healthcare in the UK free.

The NHS is funding through taxation, which is paid by most residents automatically through their employer via paycheck deductions (similar to SS contributions in the US). You need to be an “ordinary resident”* of the UK in order to access the NHS for “free”. Visitors are limited to not being charged for a visit to A&E (but you will get charged if you have to be admitted), treatment for communicable diseases, and family planning.

I was recently in hospital for three days (two nights) following a visit to A&E. Technically, I was admitted and discharged while I was sitting in A&E since I was finally sent home to sleep and come back. The following day, I reported to the EAU (Emergency Assessment Unit), which is a branch of A&E. I do not know if the five hours we spent in the EAU would count as an A&E visit or as part of my hospital admittance. I also had the following:

-IV drip of paracetamol (3)
-ultrasound
-blood tests, urine tests, MRSA test
-saline drip (3)
-“meal in a bag” drip (2)
-anaesthesia
-oxygen
-anti-nausea medicine
-paracetamol (16 doses of 2 pills)
-dihydrocodine (1 dose)
-“meals” – cups of tea, sandwiches, biscuits. (no hot meals)
-sponge bag kit (shampoo, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb)
-surgery/abscess drainage (with dressing after)

To my knowledge, I saw 7 doctors, 3 junior doctors, 2 ward sisters, 1 nurse constantly (i was assigned to her), and about 12 other nurses sporadically, including the ones at my surgery.

And the only thing we had to pay out of pocket for was £10 for two days of use of the telly/phone/internet.

It’s absolutely shocking that once I started to google around for the “average cost of US hospital stay” I found astonishing figures….

-$85 for an IV
-$5 per pill of pain relief (Tylenol in the US, but is the equivalent to paracetamol)
-$150 just for the use of a bed
-$45 for a “wash bag”

And one site suggests that I might have been charged $16,000 for my three-day stay, based on their figures they posted for the average cost of a five-day stay. Of course, I would assume that if I was in the US, I would have had insurance to cover some of that, but I also know US insurance companies are shady and won’t agree to pay for certain things and will just make up the rules as they go along, so I can’t even begin to estimate what out of that $16k we might have had to pay.

Would I have had the surgery if we were living in the US and I didn’t have insurance? Probably not. I can still remember my ER bill from when I broke my foot in Michigan (and had no insurance). I was only in the ER for about 30 minutes because it was empty and had 2 x-rays done and I received a bill for $1000. I have relatives who with insurance received bills for hundreds of thousands of dollars. I know some people who would have just taken a pin or knife to the abscess and attempted to drain it themselves because of a lack of insurance…or even if they had insurance because insurance doesn’t cover everything.

I’d have to look at one of Tim’s paystubs to find out how much we contribute in taxes, and then I’d have to try to figure out how much of that goes to the NHS, so I won’t bother. But people who hate the idea of socialized medicine and think the US shouldn’t do it need to take a step back and look at the solid facts – a socialized healthcare system means that anyone who needs care will receive it when they need it. Yes, I was stuck waiting in a hospital for three days for my surgery because emergencies came in that took priority, but if this had been a life-threatening emergency, I’d have been at the top of the queue.

Websites I looked at while writing this post:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Health_Service_%28England%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acute_assessment_unit
http://www.wehct.nhs.uk/index/your_care/wards/emau.htm
http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Healthcare/Entitlementsandcharges/OverseasVisitors/Browsable/DH_074374
http://www.cancercompass.com/message-board/message/all,5782,0.htm
http://www.georgiainjurylawyerblog.com/2010/03/outrageous_hospital_charges_ex.html
http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/health/2004-04-13-rising-hospital-costs_x.htm

*“Ordinarily resident” is a common law concept interpreted by the House of Lords in 1982 as someone who is living lawfully in the United Kingdom voluntarily and for settled purposes as part of the regular order of their life for the time being, with an identifiable purpose for their residence here which has a sufficient degree of continuity to be properly described as settled. (http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Healthcare/Entitlementsandcharges/OverseasVisitors/Browsable/DH_074374)

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Addendum

[X-posted to blog, facebook, and lj. Again, apologies if you see this multiple times]

There were a few things I left out in my last post (Can you blame me? Typing at 4AM! LOL)

I wanted to add –

-Moving me to the ward where I’d be with “women my own age” was a bit of a joke. I was the youngest there. The woman across from me was the same age as my mom, the woman in the bed next to me the same age as my aunt, and the fourth woman was in her mid-80s. Monday we did little talking, but on Tuesday when 2 of the ladies were discharged, Sue (the one my mom’s age) and I became chatty so it was still a good move to move me, as the ward I had been on previously was full of all mid-80s women in various stages. The first ward also was very large and this one only had 4 beds in the room, so it was fairly quiet.

-As I said, the food I was given was awful. The biggest problem was, the NHS serves the hot meal at Lunch time, and since each day I was on “Nil by mouth” for Lunch, I had to skip it. The person serving the food always put aside whatever was cold from the meal for me to have when I was allowed to eat, but somehow the night nurse couldn’t find it so I was given those crap sandwiches. I can’t properly judge on the quality of the food, since I didn’t really eat NHS meals.

-The nursing staff….lovely. The daytime ward sister and Vicky were both amazing, as was the other nurse we had on Tuesday (Trina or something like that?). The night time ward sister also was amazing, but there was one night nurse who wasn’t very friendly OR encouraging. On Tuesday night when we were crossing our fingers that I’d still go, her only words to me were “you might not. There could be an emergency”, when all the other nurses were crossing their fingers along with me and telling me “I’m sure you’ll go”. I mean, way to be supportive of your patients! Not to mention, she kicked Tim out the one night before I knew if I was having surgery or not….something I found out later she wasn’t allowed to do as he is my spouse! Random visitors have to stick to visiting hours, but spouses are given all-access. Very annoying. But I loved Vicky. She really pulled out all the stops on me and really was hounding the surgery department to get me in or for them to make a decision. I plan on sending a letter of thanks to her and the hospital as soon as I can hold a pen again!

-Being able to be mobile, even while attached to an IV was great. I never once had to ask for a bedpan/commode, as I was able to always walk to the loo. On Wednesday, I was even allowed to take a shower to wash my hair (before being re-hooked to the IV). We dubbed my pole “Fred”. I haven’t been in a US hospital in years, but the last time I was in one (1998), the nurse forced me to use a bedpan even though I could walk.

-Wearing my own clothing was even better. The last time I was in a hospital in the US for a surgery (1998), I had to immediately change out of my clothing and put on a hospital gown. Here, I only had to wear the gown for the duration of my surgery. I was allowed to wear pajamas (or whatever I wanted, really) the entire time I was waiting, and about an hour after the surgery I was told I could change back out of the gown to be more comfortable. Nice. I also was able to keep my knickers (US: panties) on the entire time, including under my gown. When I was in hospital in the US, I was told I had to remove everything under the gown.

-I really can’t compare services received in the US vs. the UK. I never spent a night in a US hospital other than when I was born, and was a day patient 3 times (4 if you count the spinal tap). The only thing I CAN say is that I don’t think we’d have been able to afford a three-day stay in hospital if we lived in the US.

-As far as US Emergency Room vs UK Accidents & Emergencies go, I think the care was about the same. In the US, you’d have to wait if someone “worse” than you showed up just like you do in the UK. I was seen by triage about 45 minutes after arriving, and was called back to see a doctor about an hour after that. The long wait was only for a bed. In the US, I think the wait between triage and seeing a doctor might have been longer, but again, it always depends on the reason you are there. If you walk in and you are bleeding with something sticking out of you, I expect you’d get immediate care in both the UK and the US.

As far as an update on me goes –

I have a constant pain. The painkillers make it bearable, but it’s still always a dull pain. I found out yesterday from the nurse that I need to see a nurse every single day to have the dressing changed because they need to pack the incision. This really messes with our plans as it includes having the visiting nurses come see me over the weekend to change it on both days, and the visiting nurses cannot guarantee what time of day they will be able to come. During the week, I can easily get to my appointments if Tim has to work, as the practice is only a mile down the road. It’s walkable, or if I don’t want to walk, the bus costs 50p and goes from 3 houses down from me with a stop right opposite the practice.

Yesterday, I had extreme nausea after my nurse appointment. I will make mention of it to the nurse today, as I’m not sure if it was from the pain of being poked, finally coming down from the anaesthetic, or something else. I also might ask for a stronger pain reliever, but I DO NOT want morphine, which is what they almost gave me at the hospital. Thanks, but I don’t fancy being loopy for the next three weeks.

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The Past few Days (or, My NHS Hospital Experience)

[x-posted to blog, lj, and facebook. Sorry if you see this more than once, and apologies for the length. I can use the “more” option on the blog directly, but I don’t think it will cut any length for those of you reading it on an RSS reader.]

For some background –

I have Hidradenitis Suppurativa and was diagnosed in July 2010 after a year of misdiagnoses (2 in the US, 2 in the UK). Basically, what it means is that I have (very persistent!) infections in my armpit sweat glands. The disease hits females more than males (Though apparently men tend to get them more in their groin, women more in the armpits) and there really is no known cause or cure. There are loads of things that “might” trigger it, and loads of things that “might” cure it. Basically, I’m stuck with it until they decide to go away. Treatment (for me) has included loads of different antibiotic medications, a topical steroidal cream (at one point), and most recently, scrubbing with Hibiscrub and then applying Zineryt, a bacterial acne medication.

I have a file 4 pages long that describes my entire history with this problem, including all treatments. I won’t post it, but if you really are that curious, ask me to email it to you.

The Zineryt was doing it’s job, and while my armpit is scarred, the infections themselves were clearing up. And then I got a really bad case of flu that knocked me down for two weeks. At one point, I couldn’t get out of bed and skipped showering for three days. I was drenched in sweat several times each day…and a HS spot developed in my right armpit. (previously, everything was in left). I kept putting Zineryt on it, but on Wednesday or so of last week, I noticed a new spot developing – this one was about 2 inches long, and very narrow, but it hurt a lot. I called to make a regular appointment with my GP, but he was all booked up so I got an appointment to see one of the other GPs in the surgery. Told it was a HS flare up, and given a week of antibiotics with the instructions to come back in a week if it wasn’t healed or got worse.
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A Call to NHS Direct

Recently, my husband was ill. It started on a Friday, and we thought he hit the worst of it on Saturday, but by Monday, he was still feeling under the weather and he began to feel worse overnight on Tuesday. Scary worse. To the point where I wondered if I was going to need to wake my in-laws at 4AM to take us to A&E (I don’t drive).

I went online and filled out the NHS symptom checker. The online service told us that because he had been ill for more than 48 hours, medicine wouldn’t help at this point, and that a nurse would call us to evaluate the situation.

We got the call around 5AM and it was determined that Tim did not need A&E and shouldn’t go to the GP, either (due to spreading the illness). We were advised on what he should eat/drink and what kinds of medicines he could take. At 5 in the morning, when most people who are ill would probably think to head to the hospital if they were feeling as bad as Tim was.

We had to call back an hour later when Tim started showing other symptoms (we were told to call back if things changed). This is the point where if there wasn’t NHS Direct, I would have suggested A&E or After Hours. The nurse on the line, however, told us we didn’t need the hospital, which put my mind at ease.

According to the Telegraph, calls to NHS Direct cost £25.53, and a GP visit costs between £20-25. There are those who call for the closing of NHS Direct, sighting that it will save money. Sure, it just might save 53p-£5, BUT you need to then consider how many more people will be calling the after hours GP service or showing up at A&E. How much does an After hours visit or A&E visit cost the taxpayers? Probably a lot more than £25.53!

An article in the Guardian claims 1/3 of all calls to NHS Direct still result with a trip to A&E or the GP and this is a sign that NHS Direct doesn’t help….but what about that other 2/3 who get answers to their questions? If NHS Direct receives 27,000 calls on a daily basis (again, what the article claims), that means there are 18,000 LESS people each day crowding A&E, After Hours, and their GP office. Surely, you can’t scoff at that!

I don’t think the government should get rid of NHS Direct. The new plan, to create a “111” information number won’t be as effective for one glaringly large reason: the operators answering the phone won’t be trained nurses. Plans are to give operators 6 hours of “anatomy” training and basic first aid, and then have ONE nurse on staff. I don’t like that. How will it be any better than someone going to Google and entering their symptoms and then finding a website that tells them they have something far worse than they actually do? When I put in my husband’s symptoms, the number one result was Swine Flu (which he didn’t have). If we hadn’t already spoken to a nurse directly, I probably would have been panicking! The second illness it kept telling me he had was Meningitis (again, he didn’t have that). Both are really scary and a LOT worse than what the nurse said. I can just picture calling into 111 and being told that you have a life-threatening illness when you really don’t. Something like that could cause further problems for someone just from panicking.

I sincerely hope the government decides against closing the NHS Direct number. If they’re worried about staffing issues, why not only have it open in the evenings,on weekends, and holidays? During the day, people could call their GP office if they had questions, but I think having NHS Direct is crucial for emergencies in the middle of the night.

News articles I mentioned:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/3253245/Every-call-to-NHS-Direct-costs-25.html
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/aug/27/nhs-direct-health-phone-service

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NHS After Hours

I have had the misfortune to require a doctor after office hours twice this week. In the US, if I needed my doctor after office hours I would have to call into the answering service, leave a message, have my doctor (or the doctor on call) paged by the answering service, then wait for a phone call back from a nurse or secretary to tell me what to do (usually wait until the following day or head to the ER as those were the only options). Here in the UK, you call your regular GP number and if it’s after hours it will connect you automatically to the after hours operators. They will take down your information (I needed to provide my NHS number and tell them a bit about my problem plus give a phone number I could be reached at) and you’ll get a call back from a nurse a few minutes later. That nurse will ask you more questions (obviously, their first goal is to try to diagnose you over the phone and to make sure it’s not a true emergency). In my case, it was determined that I did not have a life-threatening emergency requiring A&E (Accidents & Emergencies, AKA the Emergency Room in the US), but that I did need to see an after hours doctor. Fortunately, we live only about 6 miles away from the county hospital that provides this service.

The after hours GP at the county hospital is located right next to A&E. For being after hours, it was surprisingly fairly empty both nights. The first night, there was one person waiting to be seen and 2 waiting for test results. The second night had a few more people, but it still barely made a dent in the waiting room seating areas!

The first night I went in, I saw a GP. He was able to access my NHS files to see what I was being seen for by my GP and what prescriptions I was on. After giving me an exam, he decided I needed to be put on more antibiotics and a heftier pain killer than regular paracetamol (closest US match: Tylenol/Acetaminophen ), so he wrote up a prescription and the nurse directed us to an “all night” pharmacy.

The pharmacy turned out to be the local Boots store we visit on occasion. They have a walk-up window instead of you actually going into the store so it was a little chilly while waiting!

But we were soon home and only spent £14.40 (the visit to the after hours was, of course, free and included in my NHS care).

The following day when I called, they did their best to reassure me and calm me down (I was having a problem related to the previous night), but in the end it was determined that I needed to see the Nurse Practitioner at the after hours just to be on the safe side. My visit with the nurse took 10 minutes or so, but it was enough to assure me that I was okay, and enough to assure the nurse that I wasn’t in any danger.

This is just one more reason in a long list of reasons why I really like the NHS and wish a similar system existed in the US.

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One Month!

I’ve officially lived in the UK for one month, as of….well, right now, since my plane landed at 530 in the morning on the 21st of January. I’m settling into married life and life in the UK, and things are starting to get sorted –

*I’ve been added to Tim’s bank accounts and have received my debit card
*I have my NHS number and card and have been in to see the GP several times
*I have an EHIC card, so I’m covered if Tim and I jaunt into the rest of the EU and I need a doctor
*I have my NI number, so I can open savings accounts and get a job (if we decide I should)
*I have a library card, which has proven to be quite useful
*We joined the co-op and started earning a small bit for dividends
*I’ve been contacted by a local choir and have been invited to attend rehearsal this week

….the only thing left is for me to sort out the Provisional License, I think. As that requires sending off my passport for a month, I wanted to make sure I got everything else taken care of first.

It’s been a wild and crazy month, but I do love it here. I love being with Tim and we’re slowly getting the house sorted (and re-decorated) and everything is falling into place. We’ve even got most of the reception here planned already!

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My First Visit to the GP

Okay, I know it might sound funny for a 30-yr-old to write about her first trip to the doctor when she’s probably been going to see a doctor since she was born, but bear with me. Going to see a GP in the UK is a lot different than going to see the doctor in the US…and I don’t just mean because in the UK there is no co-pay!

My visit to the GP yesterday took all of 20 minutes. I got called back to the office at the exact time of my appointment, and the doctor was already waiting for me in his office. 20 minutes later, I was walking out with my new prescription in hand.

The health centre even has it’s own dispensary for prescriptions, and if they don’t have what you need, the co-op pharmacy is just one door over. We waited maybe 5 minutes for the prescription, and just like at the GP’s office, didn’t have to pay a co-pay to get it.

So, let’s talk about the NHS and using it as a spousal visa holder. Easy. All you have to do is walk into the GP office near your house and tell them you want to register as a new NHS patient. You fill out the new patient information for the GP, then THEY put your information into the computer, send it to the NHS, and about two weeks later your NHS number will be issued. You also are eligible for EHIC, which entitles you to free healthcare while travelling within the EU. At first, this looks like it involves filling out an application and sending in copies of your visa and waiting 21 days….but not if you’re on a spousal visa and are the spouse of a EU National. All your spouse has to do is call up EHIC and request a card for you. I should have my EHIC card in about 10 days.

There are other things that are different in the UK. For example, you don’t call the GP and set an appointment for way in the future. Most of the time, you’ll be asked about coming in later that day or the following day. The GP office also allows walk-in appointments (during set hours). The nurses at a GP office seem to have more responsibilities over nurses in a US doctor’s office in terms of what they handle for patients. The GP sees you in his office, not an exam room. I have to say, it’s a lot easier telling a doctor about your problems when you’re sitting in a friendly office setting and not perched on a cold table!

I was talking to the GP about Tim and I starting a family in 3-5 years and the first thing he did was offer me the implant birth control, which lasts for 3 years. He also told me that a woman isn’t high risk until age 40, and they usually do a natural birth unless something is really wrong or you are having a large baby. My US doctor had told me several years ago that if I wanted to have children, it would have had to be caesarian.

And did you know that if you throw up or have diarrhea within 3 hours of taking a pill, the medicine wasn’t absorbed by your body? I never knew this, and I’ve had digestive issues for several years now.

But the most astonishing part….it’s all free. No co-pays, no mysterious bills showing up in the mail later for tests you had in the office, no feeling like you need to take out a loan to afford your prescriptions…it’s all handled. Certainly makes you feel more comfortable about going in for preventative care!

Now, I won’t be stupid and claim that there aren’t any problems. Because of the free care the NHS offers, if you’re waiting for a non-emergency or non-essential surgery you might have a longer wait as they will schedule the emergencies first. And if you go to A&E (That’s Accidents & Emergency, known as the ER in the US), you’ll get seen based on the level of your emergency, not based on the order you arrived in, so if you go to A&E for something minor, expect a wait.

But I also know how good the NHS is. My father-in-law had a kidney transplant a few years ago, and Tim says he probably wouldn’t still be with us if it wasn’t for the NHS. When Tim’s gran went into the hospital, she was there for nearly 6 months and most of the time was just because she was too weak to be on her own. Tim’s family never saw a single bill. A 6 month stay in a US hospital can cost as much as half a million dollars.

I called my aunt last night to tell her about my doctor’s visit and she asked how much it cost. When I told her it was all covered by the NHS, her first response was “Why can’t we have something like that here [in the US]?”. I’d love to know.

Oh, and the GP gave me a prescription, but after I left he noticed it flagged in the system as something I wasn’t supposed to have, so he called over to the co-op to ask them to have me return to the office immediately. About 5 minutes after I arrived back at the GP, I was called back, given an apology, and walked out with a prescription I was allowed to have. I’m also going back over today to see someone about the arm infection my US doctor was trying to get rid of, and the GP doesn’t think I’ll need a skin graft like the US doctor did (of course, that might change based on today).

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Establishing Myself in the UK

I landed at LHR (London Heathrow) in the wee hours of the morning on the 22nd. We were the first plane down for the day (at around 5:30AM) and I managed to get through immigration and customs before Tim even left the hotel room! Sitting in Business Class (thanks Friend! [you know who you are]) rocked. They passed out these “fast passes” for immigration which goes to a special line only for First & Business class, so not a long wait there at all. I held my passport open to my spousal visa when I walked up to the counter and was asked one question “Where is your husband?” I replied that he should be waiting for me on the other side of Customs, and the I/O stamped my visa and said “Welcome Home, Mrs. L”.

Fortunately, luggage carts are free at LHR, and I piled it high with my bags and managed to get myself through Customs (nothing to declare) and out into the arrivals hall….to no Tim. Granted, it was 6AM, and my plane was supposed to land at 5:55, so I wasn’t upset. Instead I called Mom to tell her I had arrived and then called Tim. Turned out he was just leaving the hotel (since we live about 3 hours away from London by car, we figured a hotel was the best idea).

We were soon reunited and loaded the car…and we almost took the bags of someone parked next to us (who was even on my flight!) who had a purple bag, because Tim is programmed that all things purple must belong to me. heh. We had breakfast at the hotel, then went to our room and crashed for a few hours.

I woke up around 11, and after a shower we decided to head into the nearest town (though not into London proper) to find some Lunch and pick up a few things at Boots (Pharmacy), and tehn it was mostly hanging around in our hotel room until our pre-paid dinner at the hotel restaurant. Unfortunately, my stomach hadn’t figured out the time change yet, so I spent most of my afternoon being sick, but I felt well-enough to go down to dinner and nibbled a bit. Again, we didn’t do much after dinner (partially due to me not feeling well).

The following morning we decided to stop at IKEA in Essex on our “way home”. It wasn’t entirely on the way, but closer than any of the IKEAs in our area, and we wanted to go window shopping for new bedroom furniture.

We wound up spending 5 hours in IKEA! But it was worth it. We now know what we want and have a plan for renovating our bedroom.

We returned to Lincoln….and then the errands started. Oh, the errands.

Monday we went over to the GP (Doctor) so I could register. The receptionist had a little trouble with registering me, as she thought I needed to call the NHS to get a NHS number, but after calling the helpline from the lobby we got it straightened out and I should have my NHS card in a few days. We also headed into town, thinking that we’d be able to add me to Tim’s bank account. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite work out and we had to make an appointment for Tuesday. We also stopped at the Library though, and I got a library card and then to the Co-Op to sign up for a membership there. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get my NI number (It’s similar to an SSN), but I have the number to call to get that, too.

Tuesday we had our bank appointment and after a two-hour meeting overviewing our finances, I was added to the account, we paid off the credit card mostly (we used it for my visa & moving fees), and we have a plan for a new savings account once I have my NI number. I should have my bank card in a few days!

We’ve also been doing a lot just to get the house in order. We plan on celebrating our Christmas on Sunday, complete with putting presents under the tree. At IKEA we purchased a new laundry hamper that ought to handle a week’s worth of two people’s clothing (and it even has a divider), and a cute side table for under the living room window. We’ve also been opening the wedding presents and started to use them – yesterday I made bread in the bread machine and it turned out really good.

Sadly, last night the washing machine decided that this was teh PERFECT time for it to crap out. So today we went off to Comet’s and picked out an inexpensive washer dryer combo. We figured since we knew we needed a new dryer eventually, we might as well spend the money now to get the combo, because buying them separate would have been twice as much. Plus, this gets rid of one of the units in the kitchen, so more space for other things.

Hopefully we’ll have a quiet weekend (other than Christmas on Sunday) and start to get things in order. My shipment got to Felixtowe on the 25th, so hopefully it won’t sit in customs for too long….but hopefully long enough for us to make room for the boxes.

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A Visitor’s Guide to Getting Birth Control in the UK

[Note added 9/12/12: This post gets a lot of traffic because there isn’t a lot of information out there about this subject. Please note that this post was written in 2009. Information may have changed, so please check the links provided or ask at a local GP practice.]

It’s bound to happen to you – you’re traveling and didn’t calculate how much birth control you needed to bring with you, or you decide to extend your stay past the amount you’ve brought with you. The idea of making an overseas phone call to your doctor to get a prescription filled, then calling and begging a friend or relative to pick it up, pay for it, and ship it over to you just doesn’t sit well with you, either. So, what can you do, other than going off your birth control for a few weeks or months?

The UK-Yankee website and board is a fabulous place to start for information about anything regarding visiting/living in the UK as an American. Several of the ladies on the message board advised in the past that visitors have access to free birth control through the NHS. This some-what contradicts the big stamp in my passport that says “no recourse to public funds”, so I was a little skeptical.

I first researched family planning clinics in the area near Tim’s house. I found one in Grimsby that also had a website and e-mail address, and I contacted them with my questions. The woman who wrote back told me I would need to pay for the visit but the pills would be free, and gave me the number of a clinic closer to here. I didn’t call them.

Then, I did some more research online, and found the Marie Stopes organization. Marie Stopes provides birth control to low-income women throughout the world, and their main office is in London. I sent off an email inquiring if they had a location closer to here, and what the costs would be as a foreign visitor. Marie Stopes calculates their fees on a sliding scale (similar to Planned Parenthood), but did not tell me what fees would be charged to a foreign visitor. Unfortunately, their closest clinic to me was in Leeds, which isn’t all that close!

Several ladies on UKY mentioned Dr. Thom Dr Thom offers online birth control pill ordering – no exam or need to see a doctor. Dr. Thom charges £29.99 for a three-month supply. The only catch is that you have to already be on birth control and you must be on one of the pills Dr. Thom provides. Unfortunately, my brand of pill was not on the list. The only “American” brands I noticed were Yaz and Ortho-Tri-Cyclen. I emailed Dr. Thom and asked about ordering a similar pill, but was told they could not provide a pill I wasn’t already prescribed. Dr. Thom also requires the person placing the order to have a credit card in their name and a UK address associated with the card, so you would also need to add your UK address to your credit card before using their services.

It was beginning to become clear to me that I would need to try to see a doctor here, and I was a bit worried about the cost. There’s a family clinic (not family planning, just family clinic) in the next village over, so when Tim and I happened to be in that area, I stopped in with my old prescription.

I was told that if the dispensary supplied my brand, they would just give it to me, but since I was on a brand they were unfamiliar with, I needed to make an appointment to have a doctor give the prescription. I was told that as a visitor, I might need to pay £12 for the office visit, but they were not sure and would let me know when I had my appointment if that was alright with me. Well, £12 certainly didn’t seem like too much money to me, so I said that was fine.

My appointment took all of 10 minutes. The doctor weighed me, took my blood pressure, and asked me medical history questions. Then she looked up the chemical make-up of my pill and prescribed me a similar pill. I was expecting a month’s supply, but she prescribed me with a 3 month supply, and I was told to get it filled next door at the co-op. They did not mention paying a fee for the visit to me, but I assumed I would have to pay for my pills. I went next door, and to my surprise I was handed a 3-month pack of pills after a very short wait. I asked if I needed to pay for them, and was told no, they were covered under the NHS.

So, my advice to any of you ladies traveling to the UK who find yourself needing birth control (or the morning after pill, apparently), find a local family clinic or a family planning clinic…but don’t wait until the last minute. I started looking into things with 2 weeks left in my current pill pack, and by the time I saw the doctor and got a new prescription, I was less than a week away from running out!

For more information about what visitors are entitled to, please see: http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Healthcare/Entitlementsandcharges/OverseasVisitors/Browsable/DH_074379

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