For the record

I picked up my medical records today so that I can give a copy of my medical history to my new GP when I arrive in Scotland. I’m a little nervous about passing them off, however, and have decided that I will scan them all before I leave so that they’re not lost in the system.

Now, I have to say this next part carefully, because one of Paul’s old school friends* works for the Scottish health system and knows something or other about how medical records are transferred and blah, blah, blah. We once had a broad conversation on the topic and I don’t think we agreed with each other’s views. Mostly because I was right and he wasn’t. [Enter cheeky grin here.]

But it must be said: I don’t have full faith in the UK’s medical records system.

Mind you, it’s not because I don’t trust the system, but rather it’s because the system is too big and I have no control of my records once they are handed over. (Much like the military hospitals here, I imagine.) Once I hand over my records, they “belong to” the government-run system. I don’t know if I have a problem with this because I have a healthy habit of questioning my government’s actions, or if it’s because I’m an American and my government has no right to own (or to know about) my medical history.

But you see, in Scotland (and the whole of the UK) health care is socialised** and I don’t get to pick-and-chose who my doctors are (unless I pay for private care). It also means that if I move three miles away, I may need to register with a new GP and my medical records will be automatically transferred. The good part of that is that I don’t need to do anything for that to happen. The bad part is that if I feel there are errors in my records, the new GP will have that (potentially) incorrect information. It also means that, when seeking second opinions, medical care providers will have access to records which could inhibit their ability to give a non-biased opinion.

So I don’t know; there’s just something wrong (in my opinion) about my medical records being part of the government’s database and therefore subject to the National Archive’s Data Protection Act. But, I want to move to Scotland and I may will need a doctor when I get there. So I guess that I need to play by their rules. And thankfully, Scotland is one of those counties where I’ll not be executed for having an opinion contrary to that of the government’s.

I wonder if other expats have these concerns, or if it’s just another case of me being a little off-kilter.

Anyhow, I guess that’s one more thing I can check off my to-do list. Sadly, I think I’ve added about a dozen things to that same list in the last week…

(And for those counting, only 104 days are remain until I’m an unemployed bum – and only 71 of those days are actually working days. Yay, me!)

[Disclaimer: I realise that I do not have a full understanding of the health system in the UK and that my statements and opinions may be grossly unfair. I also realise that there are great differences between UK and US medical systems on many levels and that each has its pros and cons. This post is in no way meant as a political or social commentary on those systems, but rather a commentary on my own personal feelings and insecurities (rightly or wrongly) about handing off my medical history to a system that gives me less control and access to that information moving forward than what I am accustomed to currently.***]

* I say Paul’s friend, but in fairness, he is also my friend. Though I bet sometimes he wishes that weren’t the case!
** Apologies again to UK family and friends; the term socialised health care is just what we use state-side to describe government-supplied care and in no way means I think you’re all socialists.
*** Gaining a full copy of my records was as easy as signing my name to a very easy-to-understand form then waiting two days for them to be ready. No fees, no additional red tape, no hassles.

7 Replies to “For the record”

  1. I have heard of lots of people in the US having trouble in getting hold of their medical records, so I think it can be a problem everywhere.
    As for the UK, I’ve also read lots of accounts of people having trouble getting their records, and people having problems in finding a doctor.
    However, personally, my experience has been different. I LOVE my old GP practice. They’re just wonderful. When I moved away to university, I easily registered with a new practice and I remained with them even when I moved several miles away in the second year. Then, on return to the south-west, my old GP practice easily re-registered me. Plus, I could see them even if I was just visiting the area and not an actual patient of theirs.
    I guess it depends on where you live, but my experience was that in a city you do have a lot of choice of which doctor you wanted.
    Oh, and I also loved my dentist. They went private about a decade ago haha, but kept me on as an NHS patient.
    I haven’t been to a medical professional over here yet, although I will soon. It’s something that scares me a little. I feel more in control in the UK, I guess I’m paranoid that if I turn down some unnecessary test the doctor and/or the insurance company will hate me. Already experienced having to pay extra money for stuff and battling with insurance companies (for hubby) so I don’t trust them. But part of the trust issue may be because in general my care providers were continuous from birth. But university was fine too. I think having to think about healthcare since moving here has raised my standards a bit, and made me more worried about it all!
    And I like the GP system. I was trying to find a doctor here that the whole family could go to, but I think will we will have to go with a separate paediatric doctor.

    1. I’ve maybe had such good luck with records because I’ve always been seen at small town/rural clinics where it’s very friendly and there’s no [visible] red tape. I guess I can imagine how much harder it would be at a massive medical center in Seattle or something.
      I was in Edinburgh before and whilst I didn’t have the most positive experience at my GP’s office, once I was being treated at the infirmary it was top-notch. (In fairness, I don’t think my GP was ‘bad’, just ill-informed and too busy to listen to a pleb. Er, I mean, a patient.)
      I’ll be in Stirling this time, and hopefully it won’t be too much of a hassle. Of course, this time I am bringing with me experience of being an expat seeking care–and I have lots of ‘local’ friends to help if needed.
      (But how awesome is it that I’ll not have to deal with insurance!?)

  2. I don’t think we are particularly worried that the term “Socialised Medicine” implies that we’re all Socialists (is it so bad to treat everyone as equals and limit bureaucratic forms of administration), so much as it’s seen as a Republican derogatory term to mean something that’s inherently bad, or to be feared.
    As for having an opinion contrary to that of the Government’s, it’s positively encouraged! 😀
    Any move is littered with trepidation, but I’m sure, should you need it, that your experience will be a positive one …and you are absolutely entitled to move to a new Dr or ask for a 2nd opinion should you have concerns.

    1. Thanks, Mark! I’ve gotten less-than-nice response by calling it socialised care in the past, so I guess I worry that everyone is that way. (And as an independent voter, I can see the benefits of so many forms of government and don’t have a problem with the socialist ideals.)
      And it’s a good thing that contrary opinions are encouraged. Because I think most of my opinions about the world are very contrary!! 😉

  3. I got hold of my NHS records a few years ago to transfer thru to my new canadian consultant. I did have to pay a fee but when they arrived a few weeks later they were an absolute goldmine – all my notes from when I was a baby. I had a great read thru them.
    Conversely, with a decentralised system such as in Canada, my records went missing when my doctor’s office closed down. There seems to be no centralised store of medical info so I’ve lost all my pregnancy and post partum notes.
    I never though of my UK notes belonging to the government – they were just in the NHS system, and traveled round the country to whichever GP I was registered with. I’ve heard the term socialised medicine in some US forums, and it has almost always been used as an insult rather than a descriptor. Always puzzled me that the citizens of an alleged first world country would fight so strongly to deny basic health care to the have-nots in their society for fear of being labeled communist.

    1. I guess that’s a pro to the NHS system of records: If your doctor closes up shop your records get transferred.
      When Paul moved to the states we got a copy of his records with only minor hoops (and a small-ish fee) to worry about. He enjoyed reading through them all! (Just as I’ve enjoyed reading through mine!)
      I’ve heard a few people use the term socialised care as a bad thing, and yes, some are afraid of the whole socialist/communist label. But I honestly think it’s a small section of vocal idiots as opposed to a common thought. Many of my friends are staunch Republicans and even they use the term socialised care in a positive manner. Though they don’t believe it’s the best system. (I can see the good and bad in both systems–and the whole pricing and insurance gig we’ve got here is definitely in the bad.)

  4. I have no problem with you calling me a socialist 😉
    And fear not, the government don’t get your medical records, just your doctors. And they don’t even share them with each other unless you agree. I call it madness personally. If I turn up at Emergency, I want the doctor to know as much about my medical history as possible. But then that’s just me!

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