Healthcare: China vs UK

It seems the UK has nailed it. From pre-booking, to privacy, to patient records, the sea turtle reveals her experience in UK hospitals and how they differ from those here in China.

The NHS (National Health Service) is the U.K.’s healthcare system. The U.K.’s health care system has two levels: the first level is community-based primary health care, which is the main body of the NHS. It consists of family clinics and community clinics. The second level refers to hospital-based specialist services, which are responsible for serious illness and surgical treatment, as well as the coordination of resources.

The U.K.’s community clinics undertake most of the healthcare tasks, and British residents are registered here. Each resident will have a general practitioner (GP). If the patients are unwell, they can first make an appointment with their own GP. This system is very logical. Chinese patients will choose to go to a large hospital regardless of the severity of their illness, which is actually very inefficient. The emergence of community clinics can solve the phenomenon of a large number of patients blindly rushing to large hospitals.

If your illness is mild, your prescription will be arranged later. Waiting is very common in U.K. hospitals, ranging from half an hour to three or four hours even. I waited for three hours before I saw my doctor.

International students can also register for the NHS, so I sometimes go to the school clinic to make an appointment with the GP when I am not feeling well. Unlike Chinese hospitals which can directly carry out diagnosis after registration, in the U.K., you need to book an appointment with the GP in advance. However, there are always too many people trying to make an appointment, and sometimes there are only spaces available a few days later. If you just have a small illness such as a cold, you may have recovered a few days later anyway.

Generally, when visiting a community clinic, the GP will make a diagnosis and necessary examination according to your condition. If the GP thinks that your condition is serious and needs to be referred to a large hospital, you may face a new round of waiting.

I was very uncomfortable last week and suffered severe vomiting and diarrhea. I went to the school clinic and asked the doctor for a prescription. My GP thought that my condition was a bit serious and wanted to transfer me to the hospital in the city center for further diagnosis and treatment, and even wanted to help me to call an ambulance. I told her at the time that it was not necessary to do so. I only needed some medicine. However, my GP is very responsible and insisted that I should be sent to a large hospital.

Of course, patients who come to the hospital will have a corresponding order of treatment. After the nurse takes your blood pressure and body temperature, you will be grouped according to the degree of your illness. If your illness is mild, your prescription will be arranged later. Waiting is very common in U.K. hospitals, ranging from half an hour to three or four hours even. I waited for three hours before I saw my doctor.

The long waiting process is simply torture. I actually really wanted to go home to take some medicine and rest, which may have made me a little more comfortable; but I was sent to the hospital which meant I sat on a cold bench for three hours. My stomach was empty, and I was really hungry. I was sent directly to the hospital and I hadn’t brought any money. My mobile phone was dead as well. This was a nightmare! Finally, I had to ask a nurse for help and I told her that I was really hungry to see whether she could offer me some food. Fortunately, British hospitals provide food and drinks. After waiting for a further 40 minutes, the nurse finally brought me a sandwich and a cup of hot tea. At that very moment, I felt as if I had been reborn.

However, despite the longer waiting time, the advantage of hospitals in the U.K. is that the doctors will record your case on the computer. All patient records are available at any time in every hospital. This way, no matter when you go to see a doctor, the doctor knows the history of your case, thus avoiding unnecessary tests. In addition, unlike in China, hospitals in the U.K. also attach great importance to patient privacy, even just for a temperature test, there are curtains to cover you.

Although the hospitals in the U.K. are very good, of course the best situation is that you are healthy and disease-free and do not have to go to the hospital. Therefore, everyone should take care of their body!