“Dear UK, the NHS is awesome”: here’s what our health service looks like to an outsider

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Kayleigh Dray
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A US doctor has spoken out in praise of the NHS, in a post that has generated almost 200 comments since being published this weekend. 

Dr Jen Gunter, a gynaecologist based in the United States, got to sample our free - but under-resourced - health service after she accompanied her cousin, suffering from a twisted ankle, to a local A&E department in Sunderland

“My cousin was triaged immediately,” Gunter explained on her blog. “It took about ten minutes to check in and then no more than 15 minutes to be seen.

“A lovely nurse named Leslie triaged my cousin, agreed an X-ray was in order, and made the arrangements… I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that happen in the US.”

"I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that happen in the US..."

Dr Gunter went on to explain that she and Helen spent four hours in the A&E department, but that “over an hour was an unavoidable wait for fracture clinic and about 30 minutes of transport back and forth between the ER, urgent care, and fracture clinic.”

She added: “To receive this care all my cousin had to do was provide her name and birthdate. No copayments, no preauthorizations, no concerns about the radiologist or orthopedic surgeon being out of network.”

Emergency health care in the US, alternatively, could cost you anywhere between $75 and $351 (£48 and £226), according to a recent survey by Clear Health Costs in New York. 

Dr Gunter went on to explain how the British should never take their free healthcare for granted, sharing a story about a 60-year-old woman in the US.

“She developed a cough and a fever so received a chest x-ray to look for pneumonia,” recalled the gynaecologist. “The radiologist found something not quite right, a spot that was especially concerning given her breast cancer history.

“She needed a CT scan to see if this is a bit of scaring or if her cancer has metastasized to her lungs. When I asked her why she hasn’t yet had the CT scan she told me she couldn’t afford her $100 (£76.31) co-payment. It will take her two months to save the $100 so she can get the CT scan to find out if her cancer has returned... and what if her CT scan is equivocal and she needs $100 (or more) for the co-payment for a lung biopsy?

“If that’s not a circle of Hell I don’t know what is.”

"In America there are people trying to save enough money for the co-payment for the CT scan that will tell them if their cancer has returned or not."

Dr Gunter, who has previously written about her experiences with the NHS on her blog, went on to address UK citizens directly.

She wrote: “Dear U.K., the NHS is awesome. Try to treat it a little better. Maybe teach kids in school how to use the health care system (hey, why not NHS ed alongside drivers ed or sex ed?). Have safe sex. Stop smoking. Try to lose weight if you need to (obesity causes 30% of cancers). Wear lower heels for dancing. And for crying out loud stop stealing wheelchairs.

“The next time anyone mentions privatization or user fees tell them in America there are people trying to save enough money for the co-payment for the CT scan that will tell them if their cancer has returned or not.”

Dr Gunter finished by penning one final word of advice for the British government.

“Stop trying to mess it up.”

Images: iStock Pictures


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.