The National Health Service, or more commonly known as the NHS, is a public healthcare provider that works throughout the United Kingdom. For those who have access to NHS healthcare, they can receive free healthcare from hospitals and doctors with the only payment needed for prescriptions, which is currently priced at £9 for a single item. For someone who has a heavy dependence on the NHS, I am more than grateful for the access I have to free healthcare and access to the help that I need. It’s most noted that these differences are seen when travelling abroad to countries that do not provide free public healthcare. For example, when I travelled to New York I had to pay $150 to see a doctor and a further $80 for two sets of medication which only lasted for a week. If I needed a doctors appointment and two prescriptions then this would only set me back £18. However, many people abuse the services of the NHS simply as they do not know the other services that the NHS offers.
Even though this isn’t an NHS service specifically, self-diagnosis is something that I would recommend for those who have symptoms that they recognise for illnesses such as the common cold or a simple headache. For those wondering, I have seen someone come to Urgent Care since they had a nasty cold - simply keep on taking paracetamol and carrying on some home remedies. Then make the decision to visit a doctor if it doesn’t shift within the next few weeks instead of using time and resources at Urgent Care. Additionally, if you bought paracetamol as a prescription then you would be charged £9 whereas paracetamol and cold/flu tablets cost less than £2 for both.
The first level of the NHS would be a pharmacy which can be either used to pick up a prescription or gain advice to a specific illness or ailment. These pharmacists can give advice as to what tablets to take with specific illnesses or what you’re allowed to take if you’re already on certain tablets. These pharmacists can recommend certain products for you, which there is no need to buy there, since it may be found cheaper in supermarkets or discount stores (as long as you have the name of the item or a picture which you can reference). Even when I cut my head open, my first stop was visiting a pharmacy to get a quick check over before then being recommended to go to Urgent Care as the cut seemed quite deep and it may need stitches.
The next level of the NHS would be seeing a GP through visiting a surgery, which there are hundreds across London and the surrounding areas. An appointment can either be made my phoning up early in the morning or queuing up outside before the surgery opens or booking an appointment in advance. However, it should be noted that appointments are hard to come by nowadays and some surgeries don’t accept appointments in advance and make some patients phone up on the day. Unfortunately, this can be one of the reasons as to why people turn to Urgent Care & A&E for simple illnesses such as the common cold or an ongoing headache. However, if you get a doctor’s appointment then be warned that these appointments only last 10-15 minutes and in some cases you may need to write down what you want to talk about (just to make sure you get the answer you’re looking for).
Urgent Care or a Walk-In Centre is the next level of the NHS which is used for those who cannot access a doctors appointment and in a sense need urgent care. Urgent care offers a service which is open a lot longer than surgeries but they’re not open 24/7 like A&E would be. Illnesses that can be treated at Urgent Care would be sprains, emergency contraception, cuts and grazes as well as ear and throat infections to name a few. A full list of what can be treated can be found by clicking here. Although, in some instances you may be turned away from Urgent Care if they’re closing soon and there’s a lot of patients that need to be seen. In Urgent Care, there is not a first-come-first-served basis, once you state your illness the receptionist will prioritise patients who need care above others. Moreover, this has led me waiting over 5 hours in Urgent Care when I had my cut my head open and was referred from a pharmacy.
A&E is one of the highest forms of NHS services in relation to going there if your illness needs immediate attention and care from doctors and nurses. For example, when I was unable to walk, I constantly suffered pain when I was breathing, I made my way to A&E and was diagnosed with a terrible kidney infection. From there, I was told that I would have my blood taken, a urine test done and from there I would be put on an IV Drip which would also lower my heart rate as it was at 120 beats per minute. Either way, my wait in A&E was very short since in my instance, it was a very serious condition and needed urgent treatment. However, I’ve been to A&E in the past where I’ve had to wait 5 hours to be seen, which once again depends on the time of day, the number of doctors and nurses as well as the amount of patients needing to be seen during that time period. A&E is a place where patients can be assessed and dismissed or be kept in hospital for more treatment and tests to be run.
Another form of treatment from the NHS would be the NHS 111 service and the NHS 999 service. The NHS 111 service is for those who need medical advice which can either be given online or through the phone. For example, when I had three panic attacks in one day and my body went into shock a family member called 111 to speak to someone who would be able to advise her on what to do from home (self-care advice). Other services that NHS 111 can offer would be connecting patients with a GP service, a nurse or a pharmacy as well as being told what medicine to take. However, the NHS 999 service is to be used in emergencies since it would directly put you in contact with a call handler who will possibly send out a response unit. In most cases this will be an ambulance or rapid response vehicle for those suffering illnesses such as experiencing symptoms related to a stroke, chest pain, uncontrollable bleeding or serious head injuries.
More information regarding NHS Services can be found here:
Scams happen everywhere, that's a fact, but in places such as London there's a higher risk of falling for these scams since they happen constantly and all over London. The general rule of thumb is that if something seems to good to be true, it is. These scams will either leave you out of pocket or in some scenarios will leave you without your valuables. Even though there are hundreds of scams happening, I've found the eight most popular scams that I see all of the time around London, which hundreds of people fall victim to.
Windscreen Washing Scam
While waiting for the traffic lights to change you'll see a group of people approach your car and before you know it they've thrown soapy water all over your windscreen. The group of people then proceed to wash the mess they've made off and then have the cheek to demand and beg for money for their work. Drivers will often give money to these groups as they feel intimidated by the sheer size of the group as well as not wanting to be stuck in this sticky situation. I've even heard of incidents a few years ago where these groups will surround the windscreen to distract the driver and will proceed to wash it while other members of the group will open the boot of your car. However, I'm not sure how likely this would be to happen and I'm unsure that the driver would fail to notice. If this happens it's important to report this since this act is illegal as well as making sure you drive away without giving any money to these scammers.
This happens all over London. Even though this isn't a scam I'd thought to include it since it happens constantly in all areas of London but it mainly happens outside of train stations and tube stations. People on mopeds and bikes will see the opportunity of a commuter or tourist casually on their phone or holding their handbag in a position that would be easy to snatch. The reason that train and tube stations are targeted so much is that when people get off from a train or tube the first thing that they'll do is check their phone or fumble in their bag. As their attention is diverted to their phone or bag they are blissfully unaware of their surroundings which makes them the perfect victims for this crime. This theft happens so quickly that the victims are in shock by the time it's happened and have no idea of who the thieves were simply because it happened too quickly and it was unexpected.
Cup and Ball Scam
One of the oldest scams known to me is the cup and ball scam since I can even remember watching it as a child and being fascinated by the whole performance. Mainly this scam happens on Westminster Bridge where con artists invite tourists to play a simple game, this game involves three cups and a ball, all the person playing has to do is follow the ball. Simple right? Not at all. The tourist is enticed by the offer of having the chance to double their money if they win, which leads to many players putting down money such as £20 and £50 as they're confident that they'll win. Unfortunately the tourists won't win a penny of their money back but some people that are in on the scam will play and miraculously win. This gives other players the idea that there is a chance of winning but this will never happen to the tourists playing. While other tourists play the game or either watch someone try their luck there will be people that are in on the scam that will pickpocket them since their focus is on the game.
Fake Theatre Tickets
London is famously known for being the heart of theatre, with many people coming to London with the hopes of seeing a West End Show. These tickets are known to be pretty expensive but luckily there are some kind people selling cheap tickets for shows such as The Lion King and Wicked. Too good to be true? You know it. These tickets are fake and unfortunately by the time your time comes to go to the theatre you'll be told your tickets are fake and the seller of the tickets will be long gone. If you do want to buy tickets to see these shows then I suggest buying them online, from a licensed box office or from the theatres own box office. Even though these tickets aren't cheap at least you'll end up seeing a show rather than being out of pocket and out of a chance to see a West End Show while in London.
Overpriced Rickshaw Journeys
While visiting London and areas around Central London a common sight will be Rickshaw drivers taking tourists around the city as well as asking tourists if they would like a ride. As much as this sounds like a fun and exciting way to see London, which it is, it can end up a very expensive trip. There was once a story of one driver trying to charge over £200 for a three minute journey by simply targeting tourists as he knew they would fall for it. However, there are some Rickshaw drivers that are legitimate and will charge you a fare price for your journey. These drivers must have some form of identification and before getting in the Rickshaw make sure that you state your destination and from there you should be able to get a price for your journey.
Free Perfume Scam
Along the busy streets of London there are individuals selling overpriced perfume that is actually worth mere pennies. The scam artists will build up a crowd and give tourists the mentality that this is a good deal by telling them that it'll be the last chance to buy these perfumes. Sadly these perfumes are cheap knock-offs in another box which to the naked eye seem like the product itself (as it shows an expensive product), which tourists buy and think that they've got a good deal. It's only until tourists open the box and see that the product inside doesn't match the one in the box to which they'll then realise that they've been scammed. While building up a crowd the scam artist will hand out testers, which is from the actual product on the box, whereas by the time you buy the product it'll be a cheap version of another perfume. Since everyone have already seen the perfume and even smelt it, they'd have no doubt in their mind that it's fake. By the time they realise it's fake they'll have nowhere to go since the scam artists will be gone and since they bought it off someone on the street there's nothing they can do to get their money back.
London has many beggars on the streets of London, especially around Oxford Street and Marble Arch, but these beggars are more likely to intimidate you into giving them money. Don't get me wrong there are some beggars who are on the streets due to very real and unfortunate circumstances who really do need the spare change in your pocket or some food. However, the beggars I'm talking about may begin to tell you a story about their life and how they ended up in this situation. While you're listening to this story which tugs at your heartstrings there may be someone in on this scam pickpocketing taking your valuables. Another scam that happens is when a beggar strikes up a conversation with someone to which they make them feel sorry for them and then ask for a large sum of money with the promise of it being returned. For example, a beggar may say that they need money for a train to get to the police station or to a relatives house, to which they promise to give the money back by exchanging details. Unluckily nothing will come out of this and once again a good deed will be done for the wrong person.
The card skimming scam happens all over the world but it's most common in a country's capital, in this instance it happens to be London. Some ATM's are adjusted so that a card skimmer is placed over the card slot to 'skim' your card details in seconds. Luckily a card skimmer is noticeable since if you touch the outside of the card slot then it should be firmly in place rather than people being able to move or adjust it. If you do want to withdraw money while in London then the best thing to do would to be to go into a bank and use their ATM since there's less chance of card skimming happening in an actual bank.
Tips and tricks for what to do in London as well as travelling around it.