(actually written late Dec...still no internet!)
This week I had my first encounter with National Health Services as I attempted to register the family with the local surgery (office). When I picked up the forms Friday, the receptionist checked to see that our address was within the area the doctors served and sent me on my way with four forms so that we could all register.
When I returned Monday with three completed forms (Mark is still working on his) the receptionist checked the packet over and pointed out several areas that I needed to correct. After I had made the corrections, she proceeded to cross out the spaces where I had written in our previous doctors. I was a bit alarmed, but she explained that that space was for people moving within the UK. I felt a bit relieved and asked her when our previous doctors would be contacted. She responded that they typically don’t contact doctors from other countries to get the records for new patients, but all the records for UK patients are kept in a national database, so they are easy to access.
I was shocked. My American doctors said that I would be charged $1.00 per page up to a certain number of pages to have my records handed to me so that I could give them to the new doctor in the UK. They had blithely stated that they would fax them for free when requested, no exceptions, and no, the office manager cannot discuss this with you because she is in a meeting (yeah, right). I felt caught between bureaucracies. My US doctor wouldn’t give me my records without charging an exorbitant fee, but the UK doctor wouldn’t even ask for my records – and some of the people I was trying to register have some pre-existing conditions that require treatment. Doctors out there: Can you fix this!?
The receptionist did give me an appointment within the next two weeks and made certain that I had an adequate supply of my medication. She took the packets of information that my boys’ doctors had generated and said she would scan the information. (One doctor copied all the essential information for free; the other charged $20.00 for the complete records on both boys. So doctors, I know you can solve this problem if you care at all about continuity of care for your patients.)
If you are an American planning to emigrate to the UK, please explain this situation to your doctor and get at least a summary of conditions that he/she is treating you for currently and any significant history.
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