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:
Tips and tricks for what to do in London as well as travelling around it.