We sometimes listen to British radio over here in our idyllic little corner of France, where we are mostly untouched by politics, atrocities, the tragic migrant situation and Donald Trump, so I am saddened to hear the ongoing negative reports and issues about the NHS. Having been the best healthcare system in the world for many years, I think many people take it for granted and it is being ruined by bureaucracy.
I have ongoing minor health issues, including a terrible cough which I have had since before Christmas. After it kept me awake for hours the night before last, I sat up in bed and declared war on it! “OK, cough” I said “I’m taking you to the doc tomorrow”. In trepidation, it then subsided for a couple of hours. Having lulled me into a false sense of security, it then rose again with full force in the morning and poor J had to listen to the disgusting sounds of the results of what had been lurking in my chest! Normally I’m a tough old bird but I was beginning to panic that I couldn’t breathe very well while coughing hence the declaration of the end of peaceful negotiations.
I have mentioned the excellence of the French health care system before and after my visit yesterday I have tried to rationalise how it works and wonder if the UK could take note and copy.
We pay for a visit to the doctor (€23, about £17.45 by today’s exchange rates) and most of the cost is refunded by the CPAM, sort of equivalent to the NHS. If you have a top up insurance the remainder is paid by that, so your visit is actually free.
Because you pay for your time with your doctor you do not have a 10 minute slot and, as a result, you feel as though you are being treated well and listened to. You are usually seen on the day of the call or following day and very rarely kept waiting. On every visit I am weighed (NOOOOO!!!!!) and have my blood pressure taken. The accompanying photo is the medication I was prescribed, again most of it covered by the CPAM. If it was the UK I would have been required to pay £65.60 for these medications in prescription costs alone. I am relieved to say the old French practice of medication by suppository seems to have passed (if you’ll pardon the pun). I was diagnosed with bronchitis, prescribed steroids, as well as other things, so when I’ve finished the course I’ll let you know how my beard is doing, my results from the shot-put competition and the fact that I may have to change my name to Bruce Jenner.
Here, when you visit a specialist YOU keep a copy of your results. If you have an X-ray, MRI, scans, mammogram or any other specialised treatment you are told the results immediately as the technician records them onto a mini tape recorder, his secretary types them up as you wait, you have a copy and a copy is sent to your doctor. I’m not sure what happens in the case of something nasty being found as, luckily, I haven’t experienced that. Your health and results are your responsibility! If I forget to take my previous mammogram results on my annual (annual because breast cancer runs in my family) check up they ask me to pay a fine! So in short, they treat YOU as a responsible human being, there is no secrecy and everything is done with great speed. The longest I have had to wait to see a specialist is two weeks.
Doctors and specialists are responsible for all their administration. If it’s a small practice and they don’t have a secretary they often answer the phone themselves. Administration is kept to a minimum. There are very few health care managers and certainly no health care trusts. It costs the government a fortune but it works. Does that say it all?
I am off to Doha again in two weeks to see the adorable Ted and Harry (and adorable daughter and son-in-law!) and actually physically hold them. Skype is great and one small advantage is when you see a snotty kiss (not by me, I hasten to add) being pressed on the screen you know you don’t need a tissue! On my return I am having a sort-of pacemaker fitted to my bladder. For those of you who may have read previous blogs you will know about my problem in that area hence the need for this amazing little item. However I have been warned that you cannot go through airport screeners, shop security or similar things (we have a little chip on the car so we can whiz through the motorway pay booths without stopping) without turning it off otherwise you may pee yourself!
Happy healthy New Year all – love, Louloulapomme x
PS. I have referred to a doctor as “male” throughout this article – I am aware other sexes are available on the NHS.