Today a lady I know felt she was having heart problems. She told me her heart seemed to lurch. I'm no doctor but I do have a first aid/biology background. I took her pulse. It was slow and every seventh or eight beat it seemed to miss a beat followed by a big beat and a couple of ragged beats and then back to normal. I told her there was definitely something that needed checking.
We rang the doctor. Within the hour we were in the surgery and she was checked. After a full examination she was given an ECG and bloods were taken. The ECG was examined. She was reassured that there was nothing life-threatening but there was a need to examine the bloods and sort out a treatment. She had a bradycardia with an ectopic beat which many people had. It might indicate the need for further action and that could require medication or a pacemaker. It may not require anything at all.
The blood results will be back in three days. If an operation or medication is required then that will be organised.
An hour after entering the surgery she had received the ECG, had blood taken and had two consultations. She left thoroughly reassured, able to know that she could resume her normal life without fear and that in three days time a further consultation would sort the treatment. She was instructed what to do if her symptoms worsened or changed. She was visibly relieved.
If the unlikely event that the worst came to the worse this might require heart surgery.
The cost? Nothing
Could it have been quicker or more efficient? No.
If, in the unlikely event, she requires major surgery that will be arranged and a top surgeon will operate. The cost? Nothing.
When we moved to the States back in 1979 my two year old son suffered a potentially strangulating hernia. We rushed him to the doctor as we did not know where the hospital was. He projectile vomited on the doctor. The doctor examined him - ears, nose, throat, chest, stomach, gave him a shot of penicillin for an ear infection - while I stood aghast. Then he checked the hernia and declared that it was serious and required treatment.
He told me where the hospital was and told me to drive him there. I did. The hospital addressed the hernia, enquired why the doctor hadn't eased the hernia. He needed an operation which he had that night.
Following the harrowing experience we received the bills. The doctor's bill itemised the examinations and shots. He'd charged $700 dollars for ten minutes work. The only thing of value was the directions to the hospital. As soon as we came through the door his eyes had lit up - insurance (we'd popped in the previous week with my daughter). He knew he could milk it and milk it he did.
The operation was itemised. Every suture and procedure noted and costed from anaesthetist to surgeon. It cost thousands and used up all our insurance for the year. We tried not to think about it but if one of us had gotten ill we effectively had no more cover and would have had to sell our house. Fortunately we had no further problems and after a year we were able to return to the security of our good old National Health Service.
I certainly know which system I prefer. Give me efficient social medicine any day.