14 June 2011

Socialised Medicine Isn't That Bad After All

Almost a year ago, I logged a post about my frustrations with the NHS. This boiled down to two things:

  1. despite paying taxes like other UK residents, I was not entitled to full NHS coverage until I lived here for a year
  2. once I was eligible for full health coverage, there was no guarantee that I would be able to get the best treatment available for my Crohn's disease

Luckily, my gut held out pretty well for the first year I lived in the UK. After a visit to my surgery last spring, I was able to get the GP to prescribe the immuno-suppressant I had been taking since I first got my Crohn's treated in California. Between that and the occasional short-course of steroids, things were looking pretty good. Then in October, I ended up in the A&E with severe abdominal pain reminiscent of that I had experienced during the two small bowel obstructions I had before moving here. I didn't have another small bowel obstruction, but I was accused of being a drunk because the immuno-suppressant was causing some liver enzyme levels to look a bit crazy. Charming.

I was back to my GP right before Christmas because things were starting to get worse, and I figured by this time, I had finally fulfilled my 365 day residency requirement. Unfortunately, the GP was pretty useless at first. They were happy to finally refer me to a gastro consultant, but they were unwilling to prescribe me any steroids or other treatments to help me get through the pain. Luckily, my tummy settled down enough for me to enjoy Christmas with my finance and his family, but as soon as I was back to London, I was back to the surgery to get some help. The second time I saw a different doctor (my surgery does not seem to have any permanent staff), and he was nice enough to really chase up on the referral and actually prescribed me a dose of steroids to take until I had a chance to see the consultant. It still took a bit of chasing up and waiting to get the appointment with the consultant, but I managed until I had the appointment in February.

The consultant has been fabulous. While going through loads of tests isn't necessarily the most fun in the world, we have the most complete and updated assessment of my disease. From this, he was able to determine that I actually am battling quite a severe case of Crohn's and he petitioned the local primary care trust on my behalf to get me back on the the Humira injections that I had started before I left the US. Not only that, but he's tech-savvy and is easily reachable by email, which is great when you just have a quick question or need some advice.

What I think I appreciate the most, however, is the fact that I don't have to worry about paying a penny for the visits to clinic, the myriad tests I've had done and even for some of the specialised treatments I've been prescribed. Not only that, but I have a very understanding employer and was told to take the time I need to recover, which has been useful lately since I've been in hospital for the past six days.

I guess patience is the key here. Now to put that patience to work with my current treatment plan...

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