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Refused service – of a doctor

December 5, 2009

Me at my Grandparents' house in North London


I’ve had a bit of bad luck with getting sick in England. When I was one I broke my arm during a visit in London to meet my grandparents. Then because I liked to sleep with my arm above above my head, on the flight home I kept knocking myself out with the cast. At least the other passengers didn’t have to listen to a crying baby. When I returned to Oz and went to the hospital to get the cast off the Aussie doctors X-rayed the arm and discovered the English doctors had set the cast incorrectly. So they had to bend my arm back in shape and re-plaster the cast.

My other stroke of bad luck happened this week. Currently in England if you have any flu symptoms you are not allowed to see a GP. I had been knocked out for four days with a fever of 39 degrees which included chills and night sweats. The night sweats were the worst. I kept thinking of the heroin junkies in films like Trainspotting and Candy and the scenes when they attempt to go clean and end up in a horrendous state, soaked in their own sweat. But what the heck was my body dispelling? Family. if you’re reading this, I don’t do drugs okay.

So what were my options? After day two of the fever, I started ringing people. The receptionist at my local GP referred me to the National Pandemic Flu Service where a man prescribed me an antiviral medication (I wasn’t allowed to pick it up for myself). So I asked if I was contagious  and should I not go back to work. ‘I guess if you need to go to work, go to work,’ he replied. ‘But I’m not actually medically trained so maybe you should ring the NHS.’

What? Let me get this right. I’m not allowed to go to a doctor in the worry of infecting people with whatever I have, yet Joe Blow who has had no medical training whatsoever has just diagnosed me with antibiotics and pretty much said it’s my call whether I go to work or not (which could potentially infect people on the Northern line, in Leicester Square and in my office). I know there’s some kind of logic here but … come on! If he’s not medically trained then what is he? A telemarketer? Are telemarketers now diagnosing and prescribing people antibiotics over the phone?

So I rang the NHS and spoke to a nurse who advised me against taking the antiviral drug I’d been prescribed. Great! I was really sick, so sick in fact that England prohibited me from stepping foot in a doctors and now I had mixed diagnoses. One from Mr Joe Blow telemarketer and one from grumpy NHS nurse.  Needless to say, I went with grumpy NHS nurse, and I survived. So maybe there’s some logic to the current system after all. But for those four days of being housebound, red faced, sleep deprived, lying in a pool of my own sweat, I did have visions of being in Sydney and sitting in a medical center with an indifferent doctor saying, ‘Emma, you’ll be fine, rest up, drink plenty of fluids, and if you’re not better in a few days come back.’ What I would have given to hear that robotic, sterile yet utterly reassuring voice.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. December 6, 2009 10:17 am

    Yeah, I can totally emphatise with what you went through. The NHS puts immense faith in your immune system. Back home, I would have been prescribed tons of antiviral drugs. Then again, I’m not sure whether it’s because of that fact that the Singaporean doctor also dispenses medicine – therein lies the conflict of interest.

    Glad to know that you’re up and running!

    C K

    • December 6, 2009 10:27 am

      Oh thanks C K. I hope you don’t get whatever is going around. It’s yuck!

      • December 6, 2009 10:30 am

        PS Just remembered, when I was one with the broken arm, on my flight home a Singaporean girl gave me her toy lamb. I slept with that lamb until I was 12. Hehe.

      • December 6, 2009 11:22 am

        Hey, are you referring to the Singapore Girl as in the air stewardess? Darn! All I got was a pack of playing cards and orange juice when I was a kid. :p

        C K

    • December 6, 2009 11:26 pm

      No she was actually a girl, a ten year old. She gave me her own toy because she liked me and felt bad about my arm – hehe.

  2. December 7, 2009 1:05 pm

    Well…Remember how we talked about health systems in Europe???? Maybe that was a premonition…You should have stayed here for another week!!!

    • December 7, 2009 9:23 pm

      I know, I had thought that too when I was sick. “If not Australia, why can’t I be in Spain?”

  3. Petesmum permalink
    December 8, 2009 10:50 pm

    Try Cuba – great service there – for all comers. Unlike UK (how I remember traipsing round to so many doctors before I got on a list!) Good rum too – which can’t be bad for you. Just hold off the cigars!

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