Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Doctor is In...British Words from A to Zed, Week 5

I have another post to write about notre voyage vers la France but will save that for tomorrow since today is Wednesday and Wednesdays are all about British words.

I woke up this morning thinking about how my allergies have kicked into gear and I may actually need to phone my GP and make an appt. with his surgery. And my doctor’s surgery is not to be confused with my MP’s surgery and neither have anything to do with an operation.

When an MP (Member of Parliament) has a surgery it means they are opening up their office to their constituents to come in and talk about their troubles and make complaints, etc. This would be the equivalent of your local senator or representative opening their office for you to come in and make complaints and tell them what’s irritating you about the local government. They don’t do that do they?

Back to my GP…he’s my family doctor by the way and a doctor’s surgery is a doctor’s office. When we arrived in the UK we had to register with our local doctor’s surgery and this is all based on where you live. If you live in my village and move only about 5 miles away you will need to switch your GP. We are eligible to receive medical care under the NHS (National Health Service) but we also have private insurance through my husband’s company and for anything urgent or serious we always go private. Having private insurance means you will be seen by a specialist (called a consultant) in this century as opposed to the next one. That may be a slight exaggeration but the waiting time to get in to see a specialist under the NHS can be frighteningly long. And by frightening I mean…’hmm, yes your daughter has scoliosis and has outgrown her back brace and will need major surgery if we don’t get her in and if you go with your NHS coverage we can get you in to see Mr X (he’s the orthopaedist and I’ll explain the Mr. in a minute) in 14 months.’ In using our private insurance we were able to see Mr. X in only two months. Still a long time when you are a growing 13 year old girl but definitely better than 14 months.

Now about that Mr. title. Let me just say that I adore Mr. X, my daughter’s orthopaedist. In fact I like him so much more than the doctor she was seeing in the states and when she was more or less released from his care after 5 years of seeing him every 4-6 weeks we hugged and daughter2 and I both felt a little sad to think we wouldn’t be seeing him again. He is world renowned and kind and has six children of his own and has always treated daughter2 with the utmost respect and courtesy. I remember the very first time we sat in his office and he was talking and talking about important ‘stuff’ and all I could think about is ‘why did they send me to someone named MR. X when what I may need is a world class surgeon?????’ After Mr. X had been talking for a few minutes he stopped and said, ‘Let me back up as I can see you are wondering why I am called Mr. and not Dr.’ YES I AM-ARE YOU A REAL DOCTOR??? Turns out that yes indeed he is a Dr. and because he is more than a Dr, a world class surgeon as it turns out, he is addressed by the title of Mr. which indicates training beyond that of an ordinary doctor. Whew, that’s a relief! It is still not clear to me how the title differentiates my surgeon Mr. X from say my neighbour Mr. Y who is just a Mr. Mr. and not a Mr. Dr. but I will just add that to the list of things I’m not entirely clear on here and that list is actually quite long.

Let’s go back to my GP…a visit to him for some allergy relief will probably result in a trip to the chemist and when I say chemist I mean pharmacist. I have found the chemists in the UK to be really knowledgeable and in fact was in London with my mom one day when she had a problem with her eye and we stopped into a chemist and they had her come behind the counter and looked at her eye very carefully and asked her a million questions before determining if there were some drops she could buy over the counter. By the way, you won’t often find the familiar brand name meds from home that you are used to using in the shops here. I often have to describe symptoms to the chemist and have them direct me to what I need. And I always buy extra strength Tylenol in the US when I’m home. The equivalent product here is called paracetemol but for some reason I don’t think it works as effectively. And I buy Dramamine when I’m in the US too. Here the product is called ‘travel calm’ which sounds wonderful and optimistic but Dramamine and I go way back and I never leave home without it. And my family thanks me.

Sometimes a trip to the GP results in a jab. One thing I’ll say about the British…they call 'em like they see 'em. A jab is exactly what it sounds like…it’s an injection in the arm or somewhere. Nothing like seeing the eyeballs pop out of my daughters faces the first time the nurse said, ‘Come on inside for your jab.’ Injection is a meaningless word to most kids but the word jab they definitely get.

We’ve seen the inside of a hospital here ...a few actually…have I told you about daughter2 and her penchant for mishap? Yeah, well that’s a post in itself which I’ll save for another day but as I was saying, while I do not care for hospitals I do particularly like the word theatre which is what they call the operating room. Sounds so much nicer doesn’t it? It is a bit confusing when they talk about the registrar though because the word registrar makes me think of signing up for summer camp or a soccer team but the registrar in the hospital is actually a resident doctor. And physio. I like the word physio. It’s physical therapy or PT in the states but always called physio here.

I could go on and on and since I pretty much have I think I’ll wrap it up for now with a final thought. The aim of my blog is not to stir up controversy but because Nationalized Health Care is such a hot topic in the states right now I will leave you with this piece of information taken word for word from the NHS website….just something to think about as changes are proposed to healthcare in the US. I absolutely think everyone needs access to healthcare in our country but I hope we think very carefully about how we make that happen. Free isn’t always better. In fact, free isn’t always even good. In fact, free isn't really free. And free is most definitely not fast and when we’re talking about healthcare oftentimes speed of delivery is what makes all the difference. Cheers!

‘Wednesday March 25 2009
The NHS has achieved the shortest waiting times since its records began, the Department of Health said today.

It also said it had met its “18 weeks” waiting time target, whereby patients referred from a GP for further treatment start that treatment within 18 weeks. The target became the operational standard for the NHS from January 1 2009. Today’s announcement confirms that the deadline was met.

Most NHS patients do not wait as long as 18 weeks . The average wait for treatment for patients admitted to hospital is now just 8.6 weeks. Outpatients waited an average of 4.6 weeks at January 2009, compared to 7.4 weeks at August 2007.

If you’d like to read more here’s a link to the NHS site….


  1. Completely informative. I haven't lived here long enough to know the ins and outs of the "Misters" and the "Registrars". In fact, we only registered with our local surgery about 4 months ago because I didn't exactly understand it. That's one thing I have learned is that you have to ask lots of questions to know what's what around here. And since my friend is a GP, I would ask her questions about health. i guess the other thing is since I'm a chiropractor, I tend to have a more natural approach to healthcare. That is not to say I am opposed to medicine in any way, shape, or form. I just feel more comfortable trying to approach things a little differently.

    Great post once again, Joyce.


  2. Sometimes you get what you pay for, as the saying goes.

  3. VERY interesting! BTW, while watching Dancing with the Stars, one of the judges referred to Spotted Dick and Custard. I knew exactly what he was talking about, thanks to you :) Have a great day. Looking forward to seeing some of your pictures from France.

  4. Joyce,
    Have eaten at Cantler's. It's very good. Have not tried the others. This may be our last trip to Annapolis, at least while Brent and Katie are there. They will likely be moving this summer.