Going Private

Sixteen days ago, my wife found a significant lump on her breast. She went into our local doctor’s (where she works as a receptionist) and had it examined. She was told it might just be a benign cyst, but the doctor contacted the Norwich Hospital, and put her on a 14-day referral for investigation. Under government guidelines, potential breast cancer is considered serious, so nobody is allowed to wait more than fourteen days to be seen and examined.

When the fourteen days were up, she phoned the hospital to ask why she had not received an appoinment. They immediately blamed the Covid-19 pandemic, saying that they had to reduce numbers in the clinics, so there were delays approved by the health authority. The told her she might be seen in late December, possibly later than that.

Over two weeks of worrying about a breast lump was beginning to take its toll. Lack of sleep, constant concern, and genuine worry that it might be a cancerous growth spreading out of control.

I decided to telephone the local private hospital, Spire Norwich. As much as it went against all my principles to seek help in the private sector, I was not prepared to let Julie carry on like this for another six to twelve weeks.

The lady apologised that the Wednesday clinic was full. However, if I was prepared to drive to Genesis Healthcare in Newmarket, fifty miles south, they could see my wife on Tuesday. Of course, I accepted the appointment, for 5:10 pm today.

The clinic is very swish, and cost £7,000,000 to set up. I was not allowed to go in with Julie, due to Covid-19 concerns, so had to sit in the car out in the car park. She was welcomed, given a latte coffee, and all of her details were taken by an impeccably polite receptionist. When she was shown in to see the doctor, she was chaparoned by a female nurse, and put at her ease. Following a short examination, the doctor sent her for a mammogram on both breasts. Just in case.

The good news was that he was 99.9% certain it was caused by ‘fatty lumps’. Whilst that may sound a little embarrassing, who cares? It is not cancer. He will arrange to confirm his diagnosis with an ultrasound in around three week’s time, at Norwich Hospital. That will be free of charge, under the NHS.

Julie was in there just over one hour. The charge for that? £460 ($610 US)

Relief all round, nothing sinister.

We had the money to pay the bill. We don’t regularly change our old cars, do not take foreign holidays, or spend money on unnecessary luxuries.

Nobody is a greater defender of the NHS than me. I spent one-third of my life working as an EMT, and my wife still works for the NHS now. But the current problems mean that for the first time ever, it let us down. Consider that the doctor today is a consultant at Norwich Hospital, in his regular job. So too the nurse, and the specialist radiographer. All three were trained at the expense of the Britsh taxpayer, yet the system allows them to work the minimum hours for the NHS, then add lucrative hours at private clinics such as Genesis, to boost their already substantial incomes.

We have both paid into the NHS all our lives, but have been forced to dip into savings to get some treatment that was not offered under the self-imposed rules.

That goes against the grain for me, and makes me seriously doubt the future of the NHS as we once knew it.

115 thoughts on “Going Private

  1. Pete, I am glad to learn that Julie is “fine.” The whole thing is REALLY scary, I know. In 2014, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and chose a lumpectomy. I rejected the “offer” of chemotherapy and radiation; the oncologist told me how foolish I was to “jeopardize my life” — by not succumbing to a series of poisonous treatments! I still get an annual mammogram and some other test. Of course, I’m happy to be alive, but I really believe I’d be dead now (and some doctor a lot richer!) if I’d gone that other route! In the end, all you can do is love each other and be grateful for every moment together with Ollie. Love and blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for adding your own experience, Mona. My mum also declined additional treatment after removal of a lump. She never had a return of the breast cancer, and lived for 12 more years before dying of something unrelated to that at the age of 87.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  2. That is a great relief, Pete, and one worth paying for at this point in this horrible year. We don’t have good government health care system here and always have to pay a fortune for treatment. I hope your NHS will return to its full effectiveness in a few months once all this trouble has passed.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Julie must be so relieved, good news, money well spent in my opinion. I must have missed your post on her condition, maybe I was at my daughters wedding? I don’t know much about your healthcare system so I learned a few things from this post. So sorry you had to pay out of your hard earned savings for this piece of mind when you’ve paid out all these years to the public system! Frustrating situation for sure. So glad Julie is well, hugs to you both, C

    Liked by 1 person

        1. This is from the official royal website, Jennie.

          ‘You can write to Her Majesty at the following address:

          Her Majesty The Queen
          Buckingham Palace
          London SW1A 1AA

          If you wish to write a formal letter, you can open with ‘Madam’ and close the letter with the form ‘I have the honour to be, Madam, Your Majesty’s humble and obedient servant’.

          This traditional approach is by no means obligatory. You should feel free to write in whatever style you feel comfortable.’

          Liked by 1 person

  4. So glad to hear this Pete phew! We’ve faced many medical emergencies in our family. Eight years ago my daughter gave a kidney to my husband. He is fine and she is too – but it was very traumatic and he takes a ton of immunosuppressants which have side effects. I call him the man with nine lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So glad that Julie is alright and the worry can be put back in the drawer. I was reading this to Phil who agrees completely that we would have done the same thing. Both of us though take issue that you think the nurse and radiographer are on ‘substantial salaries’ and only work minimum hours in the NHS to do private work. In both our experiences that just is not the case. Firstly I wouldn’t call £30K a year substantial in this day and age for the qualifications and work they do. Secondly in the old days if you do extra hours for your own hospital you would be paid extra for doing that, time and a half or even double time on a Sunday and that was fair if you gave up your free time to help out. Now it’s just a flat rate, your normal hourly rate and that doesn’t make your sacrifice feel valued one bit. If you have a family to fend for the extra money private work will give you can make a better difference. As a single parent back in the day I worked for 5 years in theatres on the Agency because the NHS wage just wouldn’t cut it, and I would rather have had a permanent job and been part of the hospital ‘family’ instead of being given all the crap work as I was getting paid more than the permanent staff. At this point in time with the Covid stuff going on Nurses jobs are horrendous, they are short staffed, worn out and totally undervalued, and it wasn’t much better before. But that aside, the main thing is Julie is fine and I’m really glad for you both.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, FR. I of course agree that nursing and other roles in the NHS is a hard job, and they should be paid more. But in rural areas like this one, the pay for specialist nurses and top-level radiographers is a great deal higher than most people get. For example, my step-daughter works in a school for children with learning difficulties and her salary is less than £20,000 a year. I have nothing against them earning that extra money, but my general point was that the NHS should not be supplying staff to the private sector at all, but funding the services in the NHS instead. Let the private sector train and fund its own staff, freeing up the NHS trained people to continue full-time jobs in the public sector.
      Yes I know, that’s unlikely to happen.
      You are aware that I am a great supporter of nurses and other NHS staff, but my experience with this ‘smart hotel’ atmosphere of a private clinic didn’t sit well with me at all. All I could think about were the millions of people unable to afford the luxury of choice.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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      1. I think the private sector would train their own if allowed. When I first started my audiology training it cost the company who employed me £70K to train me, they had their own school and tutors to get us through. We did the equivalent of an NHS 2yr degree in 6 months and it was full on. Then the powers that be decided everyone had to do the NHS training and companies could no longer train their own, I can’t remember which govt dept decided that one. So now the private sector has to recruit from NHS trained audiologists. I’ll add here that I once got hold of an exam paper for the NHS degree and it was a walk in the park compared to the depth of knowledge we all had to have for ours!

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  6. Fingers crossed, but it sounds like good news, Pete. I agree entirely with your position: the FAPOS NHS is under such pressure that the obvious danger is that it is only a matter of time [and, inevitably, under which administration we are labouring, no pun intended] before it becomes fully privatised, so I hope most fervently that as many bodies with sufficient influence can fight tooth & nail to keep it ‘free’; also, that sufficient funds are made available to enable it to function as near 100% efficiency as possible, permanently, whatever crisis might be prevailing at the time. Covid should under no circumstances be used as an excuse for prioritisation of much-needed treatment. Cheers, Jon.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hopefully Julie’s prognosis will be OK. If the NHS spent less on administration and more on those at the coal face they would be providing a decent service. No other organisation has the same number of admin staff as those producing stuff. For yourselves the private care was money well spent. Good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, David. The departmental bureaucracy is overwhelming, I agree. They all have to argue for their share of the funding, and those making the decisions are pencil-pushers, not medical staff.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  8. Looking at the cost of private health insurance, I think we in the UK need to accept we should be paying more towards the NHS, be it in taxes or National Insurance (look at the media furore last time aan increase in NI was suggested!).
    Healthcare should not be a political issue, at any level, and politicians who try to use it as such should be judged accordingly. My personal opinion (as a 100% NHS user – I can’t afford insurance) is that those who pay for what they can afford (be it medication or private healthcare) are reducing the burden on the NHS.
    The benefits of the NHS go further than state subsidised health insurance. In any system that relies on private insurance, the cost of healthcare rises for everyone, whether or not insured (compare, for instance, the cost of veterinary care in the UK).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Cathy. I woul have been happy to pay more NI when I was working, but not as income tax, as I am sure that would get ‘lost’ in other government spending. I can see a time when the Tories will make people pay for medication, GP visits, and other routine tests, if it is judged that they can afford it.
      Our experience with our dog has shown the reality of 100% private care for animals, and the spiralling costs of pet insurance. In fact, we can no longer get Ollie insured, as they have spent almost £1,000 a year on his Vet bills, so have declined to carry on. Listening to the horror stories about private medicine in America, I feel we have to try to cling on to our system for as long as possible.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Glad that your wife had a good result, Pete. I’m sure everybody in the same situation who could afford it would do the same – it’s only human nature. Sam’s employer pays for me to have private health insurance, so I’ll have it for another 7 years until he retires. However, they only pay for follow ups for a few years, and so when my annual oncology check up was due earlier this year I was referred to Addenbrooke’s on the NHS. When I hadn’t heard anything by the end of October I phoned up and was told there were 4000 people in front of me waiting for ultrasound scans! I was horrified and asked if there were any concessions for people who have had stage 4 cancer like myself and who needed to know if it had returned. There was a brief pause and then I was told to go to the Nuffield at Cambridge and have the scan done there on the NHS. I did that a couple of weeks ago and was given the all-clear. Addenbrooke’s is a great hospital and I thoroughly recommend it. The West Suffolk Hospital does a similar thing for NHS patients if there are long waiting lists – they go to the BMI at Bury St. Edmunds which would be a bit nearer for you than Newmarket, but they don’t treat my type of cancer. Like yourself, if there had been no concessions we would have found the money for a private scan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Newmarket is 65 minutes by car, so not a big issue travelling there. All follow ups will be done free at Norwich Hospital, only 18 miles away. It seems some departments are running as normal. On Monday, Julie had a Diabetic clinic and ultrasound liver scan at Norwich Hospital with no changes or delays to the appointment. Yet the breast ultrasound will not be done for 3-4 weeks, as it is a ‘different department’. I love the NHS, but it has to try to shed some of its rather old-fashioned bureaucracy.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Good news Pete, well worth the money to put Julies mind at rest.
    I have jumped the queue a few times here in Poland by paying, but it makes you wonder why the same machine in the hospital can be available for a paying customer but not a waiting patient.
    Hearing that the excess deaths in the UK since March are running at 77,000 higher compared to the five year average, it seems clear that you don’t have to have covid to die because of covid. Perhaps its time the government started paying the private sector to help out, they are throwing money at everything else!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a blatantly corrupt system under the Tories. They contract out some things to the Private Sector, like my eye clinic, but not others. I suppose it all depends who their best friends are! Like the contract for masks, given to a company that is one of the biggest financial supporters of the Conservative Party. It doesn’t even make masks, and bought them from other companies who didn’t get contracts.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. We have a totally different system in Belgium as we dont’ have private clinicss. I know when I lived in England I had a private health insurance. But I am just glad that your wife Julie has something benign!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Sophie. Many new private facilities are springing up here, cashing in on people who get insurance as a job perk. Not so many years ago, the option of paying to go to Genesis would not have been available locally.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  12. The good news is that Julie will be okay, but what a lot of unnecessary stress for both of you. I feel like health care should be a basic right. Stories such as yours frustrate me to no end.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. 12 weeks could have been a death sentence if you had waited….what a broken system. I have heard horror stories about NHS and I applaud you for being aggressive in seeking treatment and 600 for a mammogram is dirt cheap compared to here in the states. Wishing your Julie a complete clean bill of health.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks very much. The system is not so much broken, as mismanaged. So much depends on where you live, and what resources are funded in favour of others. As it stands, if I got injured in a car accident today, I could be attended by paramedics, flown by helicopter to hospital, be seen immediately, and have any necessary life saving surgery, followed by a stay in hospital. That would all be 100% free. But some ‘routine clinics’ have been put on hold, with the possibility that people are dying while waiting for simple tests.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. As much as the news itself is a relief, (I’m very happy to her that it’s at least nothing serious), the way this all went about is seriously frustrating not to mention very frustrating😢 It’s not much better here, with normal care at times coming to a standstill because of Covid-19. We can only hope some kind of vaccine is found and maybe things will be getting better than again at some point. For now though, despite all the stress, I’m very happy your wife is okay😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Wilma. We do have a great system here, but Covid-pressures have created some issues.
      The day before, Julie had a liver scan and full Diabetic review at the main hospital, and it was all completely free. It was just that the Breast Clinic had no spaces, so we decided to pay for once.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. That’s excellent news, Pete! I’m so glad for Julie. I know how it feels to pay taxes all one lives and yet go private for healthcare. My daughter was born in a private hospital in another city because on the day of her birth, no gynaecologist was available at the public hospitals across my city due to Holi holidays…a city that usually has 4-5 gynaecologists. It was painful to travel 1.5 hours in labour and frustrating to see ten years of paying taxes and see them go down the drain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It shouldn’t, Mary. I made a first in a lifetime decision on my part because of the Covid-19 pandemic. But it didn’t sit well with me, and will annoy me for a long time. At least Julie was okay, so that’s the main thing.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I think we all know that the NHS is both underfunded and understaffed and seriously struggling this year. My son is still waiting for the final part of his reversal operation, been a year now since he saw his consultant. I can quite understand why you opted to go private and I’m glad the news is good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It wasn’t a decision I was happy about, Jude. But I could not leave Julie worrying for another six weeks, possibly longer. I am glad about the result, but angry that the private option was necessary due to underfunding surrounding Covid-19.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

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  17. Your private option sounds about on par for costs under our health care system with all its convoluted insurances, government regulations, private providers, corporate holding companies, and the like. Nonetheless, it was well worth Julie’s peace of mind. Warmest regards, Theo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Theo. If she had also needed the needle biopsy/ultrasound today, t would have all cost over £2000. My first experience of private healthcare, and hopefully my last.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  18. Pete, there is nothing more unnerving and stressful than the potential for illness, and I am so happy to read the promising news. It is also equally frustrating to read that a system you have paid into and supported has let you down. It is sadly all too common.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I’m glad julie will be okay I’ve had breast cancer scares myself. If you think your system is bad, you should live in the US. We couldn’t get any treatment for four months. After they opened up, it was hard to get into a doctor. Its all private, but the cost is so high you can’t receive treatment.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t think our system is bad. In fact before Covid-19, it was excellent. Sadly, restricting numbers in clinics because of social distancing has caused this problem since February. I am a great defender of the NHS, and think it is a world-beating system in ‘nomal times’.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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      1. I had a lump discovered by the routine mammogram in December 2018. I was instantly recalled & had a needle biopsy on Dec 18th. I saw the surgeon immediately after Christmas & had a lumpectomy on jan 7th. Everyone was incredibly kind and very efficient and radiotherapy followed in April which is the recommended time gap. This of course was pre-Covid.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks for adding your own experience, Lizanne. That sounds very similar to the speedy treatment my mum receieved in 2002. Covid-19 has definitely impacted the NHS, but I also suspect it provides a convenient ‘excuse’ in some cases.
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

  20. Wow. I’m glad it turned out to be benign. I feel for Julie having to wait anxiously like that. I’m glad you did what you did to help her. I had a routine mammogram done on Friday and am waiting to get the results back, with fingers crossed that nothing bad is found.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I know your concern for Julie. I am glad it’s only a fatty lump. My grandmother has a lump and we didn’t take it seriously, slowly it started to pain her and when we went to the hospital for a check-up, it was breast cancer. I feel so relieved knowing Julie is absolutely healthy and fine. I hope you are okay too, pete.

    Take care and be safe💖✌😊

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Pete, what a frightening time this must have been for Julie and for you as well. I am glad you got her the examination she needed and hopefully she is feeling much relief. These are difficult times and those people who continue to create space for the virus and impact the wellbeing of others really anger me. The cost is substantial and I couldn’t help but think it would have been double or more here in the U.S..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have no doubt it would be a grea deal more in America. For one thing, there would be no option of the follow-up Ultasound being free on the NHS. We were told today that if Ultrasound and needle biopsy had been justified this afternoon, the bill would have been over £2,000. ($2,750)
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. I’m glad your wife was able to be seen rather than have the long anxious wait and that it appears to be good news. I wonder how many others have had to face that wait recently? I can see my local cancer unit is operating at half capacity at the moment, just because of social distancing rules alone…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Sue. I know your diagnosis is not so positive, and appreciate your concern and comment. I am left upset about the people who do not have almost £500 to spend to jump any queues. That upsets me greatly, though I am obviously glad for Julie.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  24. I am so pleased that you had it dealt with right away and that the prognosis is good. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and spend the money. I am sure all government-funded health systems are suffering in this crazy world we live in right now. Hugs for Julie. And one for you for being so supportive.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Although the financial hit is hard to swallow, the diagnosis is very good news. So I’m happy for you and Julie. This pandemic has turned the world upside-down. It has caused a lot of financial misery and has impacted the health of millions (not to mention the fatalities). For many, daily life has been severely disrupted. I hope we can all get back to something resembling normal by sometime next year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, David. Given the Covid delays, I had to swallow my principles, and spend the money. But I was left wondering about those who do not have that money to spare. It doesn’t sit well with me at all.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. There are many imperfections in our healthcare system here in the US. I have worked in hospitals and have been privileged to work with doctors and hospitals all over the country, so that I still have a pretty good sense of what is good and what needs to be fixed. And my heart is aching for healthcare providers all over the world right now–they and our systems are horribly stretched. But as someone who has had many such scares, I’m so glad you made the choice you did. It is terribly, terribly nerve-racking to wait. We have some specialty breast clinics here where you go for the mammogram, it’s reviewed immediately, and an ultrasound, if needed, follows on the spot. In some cases, there are surgeons and oncologists available as well. That set-up makes it so much easier. Please give your wife my best and tell her that it’s wonderful she need not worry.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Gotta love the bureaucracies our democracies create “to help us all”. The greater point… I am so happy her, and your, worries are over on this medical go-round and that there is no cancer. This covid thing is clogging up the medical systems so badly that it just emphasizes all the more that we just can’t toddle into any doctor’s office and say “Fix me.”, and just kick back and accept whatever they say or prescribe. We need to ask questions every step of the way. Wonderful she is clear, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I have fatty lumps too, Pete. They are common and not cancer. I had a surgery back in 2003 to remove one and that is what it was. We all have fatty lumps!
    But I am so glad to read this! Tell Julie we love her!

    Liked by 1 person

  29. That is a window into things that I wouldn’t have had without reading this. I am glad that it looks that Julie is fine. I am dealing with a parallel situation here, though not cancer either. Here of course insurance is completely dependent on your employer. Fortunately my husband has excellent coverage.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. If we had tried to take out private insurance, the premuims would have been prohibitive at our age. So we took advantage of the part Private/part NHS system that is still available for those who have the money to pay for it. I am troubled that we used it, and would never normally consider it, due to my politics and beliefs. But for the first time in my life, the circumstances were suitably desperate.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. I admit I don’t understand your system of health care in England and I didn’t realize there were still private – albeit expensive – options available to you. Either way, I think you made the right decision for Julie to be seen earlier, if only for peace of mind. And I’m very happy to hear that the initial diagnosis likely rules out breast cancer. Good news!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thanks, Susanne. We have long had private hospitals alongside the NHS. Most people who use them have private insurance as a job benefit. But if you are willing to pay, anyone can use them.
      (For example, all Royal births and medical treatments are in ‘Private Departments’ of NHS hospitals. )
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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