Compare health care for the sixty-six million humans here in the UK with other countries and you'd be forgiven for believing we dwell in some health Paradise. It's free - free to see a doctor, free to go to hospital, in some cases free to be seen by a dentist.
However, as you might imagine, multiply 66 million potential patients with the cost of the free service and you'll not be so surprised that NHS England gets by on about £101.3 billion a year.
| Let your chemist help? ... The NHS points out how handy can be our corner chemists. I pop in to experience a variation of a GP practice and learn - not quickly - that it is, well, rather different. |
The assistants in the photo here are not the people encountered in my minor enquiry.
Phew, a lot of hoot. I've forgotten how many noughts accompanies such a colossal sum. However, I was thinking more of recent good health care advice issued by the NHS. Take some of our less serious ailments to the chemist, they say, rather than risk clogging GP surgeries.
It sounds good. After all, pharmacists are no dullards. They are well educated about human health.
I was dwelling on the advice as I crossed the main street of Surbiton, home of TV's The Good Life. I carried a prescription. Given the promoted health advice, I thought I would seek advice about the medication I was about to get - that I thought I was about to receive.
Peter was a real gem
My favourite chemist shop used to be run by a really helpful and obliging gent of oriental extraction. His name might have been Peter. He was a real gem. However, time has passed and he has moved on.
I was in a rush, so I stepped into Boots, the local shop with that famous name. I know it's not what it was, but I'd surely get prompt service and advice. At the dispensing area, two cheery gals in white coats dashed about. They didn't seem to be dashing in my direction much, and quite quickly the queue began to grow.
Well, you get used to minor frustrations like that from Boots. Not long ago, I called there for a monthly supply of Aspirin, that tiny 75mg pill that's said to be good to take daily.
The, er, lady behind the counter said, 'You need a prescription for that.'
'For 75gm of Aspirin.'
A little joke'You. Need. A. Prescription. Ask. Your. Doctor. For. It.'
I smiled. This must be a little joke. 'For 75gm of ...'
She wasn't smiling. I popped next door to Peter's, and left his shop within seconds grasping my £1 of aspirin.'
However, Peter has gone. Things are not quite the same in that little shop. However, it couldn't take more than a moment to dispense my prescription.
And I hurried into the shop, guarded now at the front counter by a fellow almost hidden beneath a large hat who seemed to be attempting to mesmerise a mobile device, and up to the dispensing counter. A pretty young woman took the prescription. She moved into the working area where we see chemists shovelling pills into packets and similar industry.
I waited. I examined some shelves, I returned to the counter. The assistant was busy talking to another worker. The hat passed by to share a joke. I returned to the shelves. Ten minutes passed. I saw an interesting toothbrush for interdental sprucing. The price tag on the front read £1.99.
I returned to the counter. I was still the lone customer. I waited.
Eventually, a good looking fellow appeared. He called my name even though, as I say, the shop was not exactly crowded. 'We'll have to get this in. Tomorrow, ok?'
I offered the tooth gadget to another assistant. That'll be £2.99, she said. I pointed to the label on the front. She pointed to a label on the back. I left without the brush, and without the medication, though it did turn up the next day. I left, too, wondering about the new NHS advice.
Thanks for visiting the blogs for my adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory.