Those most ill tend not to be the ones complaining about the NHS

Sometimes private clinics wouldn't bother suggesting a cheap drug like paracetamol when they could profit from prescribing more expensive versions

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The NHS is the envy of the world...although apparently not for many Polish people living in the UK.

Such is their dissatisfaction with our health care system, many of my Polish patients go home to seek medical care and two Polish doctors have set up their own private clinic in London which, apparently, is thriving.

I could quote data showing how good our health care outcomes are in comparison to other nations, but for most people, personal experiences outweigh any statistical evidence that I can offer.

One of my Polish patients asked me why doctors on the NHS only prescribe paracetamol. The answer is of course that we don't. I prescribed him paracetamol for his slightly sore knee and explained that it would get better on its own. He told me that In Poland he would have got an x-ray and seen an orthopaedic surgeon. I also prescribed him paracetamol for his viral sore throat. In Poland his doctor would have apparently performed a chest x-ray and given antibiotics.

I have prescribed him only simple pain killers for his ailments because they are benign and due to the amazing self healing power of the human body, they will get better all on their own. He is a fit 28 year-old who doesn't need extensive medical investigations for his minor health complaints, but were a privately run Polish health clinic to be set up in our local town, I suspect he would happily part with £70 to see a non-NHS GP.

I'm sure there are private doctors – I’m not saying this applies to the one mentioned here - who wouldn't bother suggesting a cheap drug like paracetamol when they could profit from prescribing numerous more expensive versions. It would also be lucrative to order as many expensive investigations as possible. These should be performed quickly as once the patient gets better, he may not be quite so willing to part with his credit card details.

I do have one Polish patient who isn't quite so critical of the NHS. She is only 23 years-old and has been working here as a waitress. She came to see me one afternoon with a lump on her arm. It was hard and craggy and felt attached to the bone. I referred her urgently on the cancer referral pathway and within 10 days she had seen a specialist who unfortunately agreed with my diagnosis. She had a rare aggressive bone cancer called an osteosarcoma and it needed urgent treatment. She was sent to the royal national orthopaedic hospital in London where she received top notch cancer treatment and the sort of specialist surgery that only a few places in the world can offer. She is now back to work with only a small scar on her forearm to remind her of her recent brush with death. She went back home to Warsaw last month to take her notes and scans to her family doctor for his opinion. He told her that the management for her condition in Poland would have been to amputate her arm below the elbow.

Those most ill tend not to be the ones who are complaining loudly about the NHS. Someone who has been hit by a bus or is being treated for cancer, tend to sing praises for the treatment they receive. The private clinics often steer well clear of those who are seriously unwell as there is no money to be made from them. I can't imagine a team of Polish doctors offering private cancer services or setting up an independent A&E department. The private sector are however happily cherry picking the fortunate majority, who are basically fairly well, but are often disgruntled with the NHS.

A private health clinic recently asked me if I'd consider leaving the NHS to become a private GP. There were two reasons why I said no. The first was that if patients are really sick, our local NHS services are brilliant. Secondly, I became a doctor to provide sick people with what they need rather than make money giving rich people what they want.