Day six ended with a visit to St. Thomas’ Hospital ER to check out my head after a possible concussion. I was nervous to go because of the cost and spent a while with my insurance on the phone checking on international coverage.
So, for anyone that knows me personally, I’m a pretty big advocate of universal healthcare, so the only perk I could see in this situation was having a first-hand experience with a universal healthcare system, England’s National Health Service (click here to learn more about the NHS).
First, their system was super organized. Their intake process sorted people into emergency care and urgent care (and redirected those patients to another section of the hospital). This is a huge issue in the US where ERs get bogged down by cases that could be taken care of by urgent care or a primary care physician.
Second, they had you fill out a bunch of paperwork to help the doctor while you were waiting. From my visits to the ER in the US, they only have you sign releases and then you wait until you see the doctor before you even start talking about symptoms. Having a few sheets already filled out with information really expedited things.
Next, you had a number, I believe that to a degree they prioritized patients and it wasn’t necessarily the order you came in, but regardless, it was good to know which number in line you were and how long you were going to be waiting.
So, I saw the doctor and that was a good experience. All in all that was fairly similar to what you would expect from a doctor’s examination.
What came next is what is still the most unbelievable part of this. After my visit, I was walking around looking for where I was supposed to check out and pay for the visit. I couldn’t find it, so I asked a nurse. And she said, “No one pays for healthcare in the UK, it’s always free.” I let her know that I was an American citizen, and she still assured me that I was taken care of, and I was just in awe. This country took care of my healthcare needs and prioritized that as a human right while I was visiting them. Yet, in my own country, day-to-day I have fear of losing my healthcare.
I still stand by my belief in universal healthcare systems, and I hope that one day I feel like my country cares about my health and human rights as much as I did in that moment in a central London hospital.