Chapter 9 of Polska Dotty is the riotous account of several months I spent being pinged between GPs and specialists during my stay in Poland. This was courtesy of a private health care provider apparently more intent on revenue generation than curing the strange noises emanating from my stomach at the time.
But that account should not mislead you as to the excellent quality of much of Polish healthcare. For example, certain cancer units in Poland have had a very high reputation for a very long time – and, of course, “dental tourism” to Poland is now legendary. My wife and other members of her family based in UK have successfully partaken in dental tourism. In their cases, they did so in their home town in Galicia, which no doubt added a large degree of comfort. But in any case, I haven’t heard many horror stories told of foreigners returning home with major dental woes. Indeed, quite the reverse: foreigners can save thousands and even tens of thousands of pounds on dental implants as against the extortionate prices charged in their own countries.
Which brings me neatly to yesterday’s news story that triggered this blog. The Daily Mail reports that a Polish private GP centre in London has become hugely popular (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2337682/Patients-shun-NHS-clinics-run-Polish-GPs-Cut-price-private-surgeries-doctor-seven-days-week.html). Founded 5 years ago by 2 Polish doctors, it now has more than 50 staff and 6000 of its impressive 30,000 patients are Brits! It operates out of a spotless clean modern centre, and is open 7 days a week until 11pm except on Sundays when it closes at 6pm. Patients are offered fully 30 minute appointments.
But what amazes me the most – and is the reason the NHS should take a long hard look at this centre – patients pay £70 per GP visit. More for certain other services e.g. ultrasound. In other words, patients pay considerable amounts for services they’re entitled to for free on the NHS, but no doubt cannot be bothered to wait for any longer. Plus – and not to be underestimated – feedback from patients is that the standard of care is incomparably higher at the Polish centre: thorough investigation delivered by smiling faces for whom service levels are paramount.
I accept there’s a danger this blog could oversimplify things: compared to the Polish clinic, the NHS is a behemoth that will take some turning around – but I’m firm in my conviction that criticism of the NHS is fully justified. Just think of the money that has been pumped in, and is still being pumped in (having been ring-fenced) at a time of great austerity. Think of the service we had from the NHS in our youth: home visits, for example (unthinkable now!). And, as my wife Marzena tells me most days, compare the service with Polish health care – not just in London but in Poland, where, for example, women have regular gynaecological checks in a much more preventative approach.
One of the Polish doctors from the London centre is quoted as saying that his patients prefer the comprehensive standard of care his centre offers to the “it’s nothing serious – take paracetomol – you’ll soon feel better” approach of the NHS. This sounded a bit glib to me, until Marzena told me this very morning of a friend of a friend whose young daughter may well have a serious illness. They know this because, after, several months of being told by the GP to… take paracetomol (it’s nothing serious), the mother insisted on scans which have indeed revealed something potentially of great concern. We keep our fingers very firmly crossed for this young girl.
Chapter 9 of Polska Dotty ends with my ex-pat friends cackling at my attempts to stick with Polish medicine as they jet back to UK to have their illness treated by the NHS. Now, more than ever, I feel I’ve had the last laugh. And I’m also keeping an eye out for one of those Polish GP centres to open up in my corner of England.