When Maria Chaplia contracted a nasty skin infection last year, she quickly learned the NHS was going to make her wait months for treatment. So she hopped on a flight back to her native Ukraine, where she was immediately treated in a health care system that is much better than the creaking NHS, she writes in the Telegraph.
After countless futile attempts to get through to the NHS to be seen by a dermatologist, I was told that it would be months before I would be given an appointment.
So far, so familiar, you might think. But if you have read and struggled to believe stories about Ukrainians living in the UK returning to their native country for medical treatment, let me tell you that I am one of them. Having given up on the NHS, I flew to Poland and crossed the border. Later that day, amid air raid sirens, I visited a hospital. By the evening, I had the relevant medicines to get me back on the mend.
After living in the U.K. for over two years, I can see that Ukrainians are spoiled in terms of access to healthcare compared to Britons, despite the billions that are lavished on the NHS. Growing up in a small town in western Ukraine – to which it is still possible to return despite the fighting in the east – I never had to wait more than two days to be seen by a specialist doctor.
When you fall unwell in Ukraine, you are usually advised to get seen by a doctor right away. Within a day or two, you have different tests done, such as a lung X-ray and blood sampling, and then you are prescribed treatment. The doctor would usually give you their phone number so that you can text or call them to discuss your progress. Following recovery, the doctor would normally recommend having blood tests again to make sure that the illness is completely gone. On the NHS, by contrast, ibuprofen seems to be the panacea to all of life’s ills.
For those with a bit more disposable income, the private sector offers even more choice.
Ukraine has an extensive network of private hospitals and clinics where you could get a walk-in MRI or X-ray scan for £80 at most. Many of those clinics have handy mobile apps, which allow you to choose a specialist doctor and book an appointment on the go.
In May last year, I paid £5 for a private dermatologist appointment, during which a nurse took a sample of my rash to establish the cause of the problem (I had the results back in half an hour). On average, the price of a private doctor’s appointment in Ukraine varies between £10 and £40. Given that monthly average salaries are still comparatively low, not many Ukrainians can afford to go private. However, it definitely helps that the choice is there, and the options are many.
When planning a trip back home from the U.K., I’ve noticed that Ukrainians will often try to see as many doctors as possible. A few months ago, I met another Ukrainian woman who lived in London and was travelling back to get checked by Ukrainian doctors. Having suffered from severe stomach pain for weeks on end, she didn’t want to take her chances with long NHS waiting lists.
A quick search through Facebook groups shows that Ukrainians can be frightened about getting sick in the U.K. for fear of not being able to receive treatment.
Envy of the world.
Worth reading in full.