Surviving in the UK – thanks to and despite NHS

It’s summer and I’ve been on a blog holiday, neither writing nor not reading blogs of others. Until National Health Service (UK’s biggest employer, NHS to friends and family) gave me an urge to write a little, or should I say it inspired me.
People with good manners don’t talk about their health in public. Talking about NHS should therefore be perfectly fine as this has nothing to do with health, as I have found out. Anyway, I hit my middle toe against someone’s knee a few weeks back. My sparring partner was fine, the toe unfortunately not so much. It got slightly swollen and had a nice range of pastel colors on it almost immediately. I thought I’d just bruised it and kept on doing what I was doing. Walks on Estonian islands and Scottish mountains, swimming, a rock concert and such. It did hurt a bit but hey, no-one said life was supposed to be easy. Finally this week I thought that my foot has been sore too long for a simple bruise and that was time to bring on wonders of modern medicine.
Ironically, the only place to get someone to take a look at your foot is a walk-in clinic. (In my case hobble-in clinic.) The other option was signing up with a local doctor aka GP or General Practitioner. I reckoned a domesticated doctor may come handy one of those days so I better go all the way. Having lived in the UK for some time now, I wasn’t at all surprised that you can’t just go there, flash your ID and get whatever body part examined and fixed. That would be unreasonably time efficient, wouldn’t it.
On first visit I indulged into some paperwork. Only 24 hours later was I entitled to schedule an appointment. But not to have my foot looked at – no, not so fast. This is just to complete your registration and have a nurse measure you and ask about diseases in the family, quantities of fruit I eat and units of alcohol I drink per week. Only after that would someone actually get to examination of my limb. I was lucky as well as persistent though, so I managed to schedule initial check and doctor’s appointment within 20 minutes of each other.
Your middle toe is broken alright, said the doctor finally. And added it should heal itself in about three more weeks if I gave it some rest and minimized my walking. Probably, he added, as only an x-ray would tell with 100 per cent certainty. Unfortunately x-rays could only be done in one of the big hospitals and it would usually take two weeks to get a response back from them. Or alternatively I could have gone to an x-ray unit (x-ray monger? x-ray parlor?) a few tube stops away that would have given me results immediately had I been prepared to spend four hours in a live queue. This all seemed quite unreasonable and contradicting the advice to go easy on walking, so here I am, still x-rayless, but quite immobile nevertheless.
I don’t know what I was thinking but I also showed a birth mark on my chest to the same doctor (in the same NHS system) and asked whether someone could remove it as it’s situated exactly where backpack straps rub against the body and then there’s the thing with birthmarks and sun not getting along very well. No problem, he said and proudly explained that the internet based patients handling system would make this very easy. All he’d need to do is enter my details in the system and presto! soon a letter would come from GP’s office, stating that I could go and pick up a card with a phone number that I could use to make an appointment with a dermatologist. I stared at him blank, not understanding why getting a simple medical procedure had to involve more planning than robbing a bank.
I turned around and as I walked out I saw this sign on the inside of the door. Not all customers leave happily, the doctor said while I got my camera-phone-calculator-alarm clock out and took the photo. Why was I not surprised.