NHS and my son

Last week, I posted this post and this follow-up post on an experience I had with the National Health Service (NHS).  You all made some excellent comments (and I apologize I have not replied to many; I am a sinking ship here).  A few months ago, I also posted this.  Today, we present another encounter this expatriate family has had with socialized medicine.  Hopefully, this week or next, there will be one more post in this series.  As before, comments and respectful discussion are very welcome.

            At first I thought it was diaper rash, but that made no sense because he was daytime potty trained.  Probably not diaper rash, despite the delicate location of the angry red bumps.  We tried creams.  I suspected that if I took him to the doctor too quickly, he would tell me it was just a rash or eczema and send me along home on the assumption it would clear up on its own.   

We have private insurance, which in the UK means that we have additional coverage on top of NHS, so that if we are referred to a private physician, it is covered.  We have to go through our NHS general practitioner first, of course, as he is the gatekeeper.  So, after two months of creams, we took Zachary to our NHS general practitioner.

            “Eczema,” he declared.

            Really?  I myself have eczema, and this did not fit the usual profile.  It was persistent, and it did not go away with the usual creams.  The doctor gave me a new one, with nice things like hydrocortisone. 

            Two months later.  Same GP, since under NHS there are no pediatricians unless the child has a special condition. 

            “Eczema,” he said, seeming bored with my insistence on a treatment.  A new ointment.

            Two months later, we came back.  “Eczema.”  I was starting to feel pretty sorry for my two-year-old son, who had now been walking around with red, itchy bumps for almost six months, but the doctor seemed rather unconcerned.

            “You know,” I said, “since we do have private insurance, perhaps we could see a dermatologist, just to be sure.”

            “Fine.  Who would you like to see?”  He found a name, wrote out the referral.  “I’ll be interested to see how this comes back,” he commented.  “I suspect she will tell you it is eczema and there is nothing to be done.”  Stupid, pain-in-the-ass, spoiled American wasting the medical resources on her demanding notions that everything be treated immediately. 

            One week later, J took Zach to the private dermatologist.  “Looks bacterial,” she commented.  “Let me culture it, but I think we should get him on antibiotics and an antibiotic cream.”

One more week.  No more “eczema.”

25 responses to “NHS and my son

  1. Six months? really? yowza. I have found here, even with good medical insurance, the same set of circumstances to be true(ish). You really have to be your own advocate in so many cases and I don’t like that very much, having, you know, not gone to medical school or anything.

  2. Yeah, that sounds more like “clueless doctor syndrome” than anything. I’ve run into that here, even where all the doctors, including the dermatologists, are public. And I have friends in teh States who have been put off by ignorant GPs.

  3. Oh my. Poor little guy! I’m glad you finally got to the dermatologist..

    I’m actually dealing with some frustrations of the military health care type, but for me the problem is just getting an appointment. My cough is so bad it causes me to vomit, but there are “no appointments” and they won’t refill my cough syrup without me seeing a doctor. So…I suffer. There is no alternative.

    (note: I say “military health care”…but I never had problems like this in the States. It is likely because we live on a tiny post, with limited resources. Still, the nurse at the nurses station could try to help me rather than yelling “Don’t get frustrated at me, it’s not my fault!” into the phone..)

    Sorry for the ramble. It’s been a rough day.

  4. Ditto. I think it was that doctor.

    Poor kid.

  5. If only that were my only experience like this. The attitude that wanting to actually get TREATED makes me a spoiled American is pretty common here, and I have met it with several doctors in the office. I will post more on this later, but I am pretty confident it was not just the doctor.

  6. Ugh, frustrating! Sounds like a case of a not-so-good doctor.

  7. dragonfly – I feel your pain, I did the military health thing in teeny-tiny German town. Good thing? Had my baby in the German hospital with fantastic food and charming nurses (and little to no communication thanks to my pathetic German). Bad thing? The single office for the general practitioner which had, kid you not, oven mitts on the stirrups.

    Emily – I’ve heard from many of my UK friends about the overworked, overly patronizing docs they see. It’s definitely not just because you’re American!

  8. I think Americans idealize socialized medical care because we want to much to fix the problems in our system. Anyone I kow who has experienced socialized health care however, has been sorely disappointed. I’m a free market type and I think that while no system, none of them, will ever be perfect (like finding the perfect church – ain’t out there) competition between the parties with skin in the game ratchets them all up to as top notch as they will ever be.

  9. Above I meant we want to fix our system SO much, not to much!

  10. It doesn’t seem right that every one does not have access to health care. At the same time, socialized health care does not seem to be the “best” fix, in my opinion.

    These matters are not black and white at all.

    There are no simple solutions.

  11. interesting to note that even with a nationalized health service, $=better care ($ by way of private insurance). i’ve been a proponent of socialized heath care though b/c i think it is disgraceful the numbers of uninsured folks in the states.

    our family is in the middle of dealing with a potential major health issue. we pay for health care out of pocket & thank goodness we do/can, but still, since we’ve been advised to seek 2nd & 3rd opinions — these will not be covered by insurance & we need our savings to cover it (again, thankfully we can, but it will still hurt significantly).

    i’ve always thought that doctors & mechanics could take full advantage of me b/c i know so little about my health & car that i had to trust them implicitly. now i know that even great doctors do not always have straight answers & that we need to be far more informed ourselves.

  12. It’s interesting, as others pointed out, that your additional insurance was the golden ticket for getting the care you needed. I’m in favor of socialized health care, since I believe everyone should have a right to that. But the issues surrounding it are so complicated.

    I’m glad he’s better now. It seems like, given the delicate location, the first doctor should have at least considered that diagnosis.

  13. So did you go back and staple the tube of eczema cream to that insufferable twit of a GP’s forehead?

    If not, did you want me to take care of that for you? 😉

    If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s arrogant idiots. In any profession.

  14. What is the answer? Because there are so many problems with any system.

  15. Do you not HATE it when doctors do not listen…moms are usually right…glad you pushed for proper care. Who knows what could have happened if the infection went on longer.

    When my first born was 10 days old we rushed him to the hospital..all 10 days before we were telling drs and nurses and lactation consultants something was wrong…but theydid not believe us…and in the end we were right and we almost lost DJ…he had emergancy surgery that saved his life and he has a very rare condition.

    Good job mom pusing for care. KUDOS to you!

  16. Punk! (in reference to the first doctor)
    I’m glad you got the issue resolved. I’m sorry it took so long. I’m with Coco all the way.
    I’m glad to know that you ALL are doing ok. ;o) Leave it to me to jump to conclusions and panic!

  17. Seriously!!!!! Ugh. I’m be uber irritated if I were you. Did you tell the pediatrician who called it eczema? Argh.

  18. I’ve got different thoughts on this, Emily.

    I’ve been the wife of a doctor for many years and I can tell you that skin problems are the hardest to figure out. I have had skin problems that even the dermatologist wasn’t able to figure out.
    On the other hand – if a skin problem doesn’t go away after several months and different treatment, the treating doctor should be intelligent enough to refer you to a specialist – in other words, your GP is truly an idiot!

    The second thing I need to add here is that I think it has nothing to do with you being American and you living in the UK. Please, don’t make a connection where there is none. Idiotic doctors can be found anywhere!

  19. I’ve found that in some ways the health care system here in the UK is _very_ responsive. Maybe it’s my local doctor’s surgery (office) but I’ve always gotten a call back within an hour or so, sometimes less, and a same day appointment when I’ve needed it and never the rolled eyes about the American wanting treatment.

    That being said, there have been instances where I haven’t been given the most efficient antibiotics at times (and it wasn’t a cost saving reason). And if you have something that should be looked at, but isn’t routine and isn’t urgent you can end up waiting and waiting and waiting.

    On the whole, I think that the care here is better than the HMO we had in the US, but not as good as when we had the best private medical insurance plan in the US. But of course, when I think about the cost of insurance and the number of uninsured in the US… it’s quite a thorny public policy problem to solve.

  20. Sadly, I’ve been through a similar thing with a private doctor here in the U.S. Sometimes insurance can be an even bigger pain than medical bills, especially when you have to have that precious referral.

  21. His attitude—the arrogance or snottiness behind his dismissal—might be an American snobbery thing. But it is arrogant negligence by the third time you went to see him (at least), and still very common here, too. I was run over by one of those loading carts at Home Depot (dude, do not even ask). It wasn’t a “full” run over, but it took out my left leg pretty badly. As in…not enough skin left to stitch. Anywho, long story short. It took me two months of being a royal pain in the ass to convince the freaking PA (yes, PA not MD) who kept seeing me and swearing up and down it was a sprain. A sprain! I demanded a referral, was diagnosed properly, and barely in the nick of time to not lose my ability to walk on that leg!!! As it was it took months of physical therapy to get me walking on my own. More months using a walking stick.

  22. Oh yeah got so self-involved LOL…

    Did you go back and tell him? What did he say?

    And BRAVO to you keeping at it. Luckily you had that supplemental insurance.

    Now here, we do usually have the ability to have a self-referral plan (if you can afford it) and you can change doctors within the plan. Do you have that option?

  23. hmmmm. it’s all sides, isn’t it?

  24. Argh. So frustrating. And so awful for the poor kids (and adults) who don’t have that private doctor option.

  25. Mama knows best! There is truly something to be said for a mother’s intuition. We might not have medical degrees, but we know when what the doctor says, just isn’t right. Bravo to you for being persistent!