After four years in London I have finally done it, I have registered with a doctor. In part I took the step because every rational human adult should be registered with a doctor, you know in case of the plague (dude this is London, it could happen). But mostly I took care of this little bit of life admin because I was sick of getting the side eye from friends, which after four years had actually graduated from the side eye to actual physical beatings as they screamed “register with a damn doctor” in my face. I love my friends, they only have my best interest at heart.
As to why I hadn’t registered until now (especially for all my London newbies) is because it is a massive pain in the arse (not literally unless you are a male over 50…a pain in the vagina for any girls over 25). Every time I actually needed a doctor I looked into the steps that I needed to go through and decided that dying in bed with tea, painkillers and Gilmore Girls was a better option. Just to check that I wasn’t actually incubating the plague when I was home in New Zealand at Christmas I went to my regular GP for a check-up – the badass rebel side of travel blogging right there.
So how do you actually register with a GP in the UK? First start with a stiff drink because finding a doctor that a) is accepting new patients b) you are in the correct enrolment zone for and c) has a good rating is harder than precious Tarquin getting into the elite private school where they dip their privates into piglets every Wednesday morning.
Seriously, every time I looked into registering I went to the NHS website (http://www.nhs.uk/Service-Search/GP/LocationSearch/4) popped in my postcode and looked at the available choices. Like anyone born into the Trip Advisor generation I read the reviews and automatically discounted any with an angry red rating. Opening a billion tabs to delve deeper into my chosen GPs I then looked at their enrolment zones. Yeah fuck that the only ones I was ever eligible for (and that were accepting new patients) were always the ‘0/10 might get typhoid in the waiting room’ ones. When I say some of the enrolment zones were small, there was one that the zone was one street either side i.e. you had to live within a three minute walk of the surgery to be eligible to enrol.
Anyway I finally found a GP that I was in the zone for, and that had an approval rating of 65% (which I translated as probably not likely to kill you) so I decided to go ahead. The first thing that you need to do is go to the GP and fill out a registration form along with your passport and a proof of address. Totally easy to do when you have a full time job and the surgery is only open from 9-6 *insert expletive of choice here*.
Then once you handed in your form you have to make an appointment with the nurse to go over the details you have written in the form (they also take your blood pressure, height and weight). After going to the surgery in person to hand in my form (very few will let you do this online) I then made an appointment with the nurse (earliest appointment was the following week) and went back to seal the deal. Oh that sounded way dodgier than intended.
This post sounds negative, but let me be crystal clear that the staff I dealt with were lovely and that totally free healthcare is a friggin miracle and not to be sneezed at. But I guess what I am trying to get across is that if you live in central London and have a full time job it can be next to impossible to register with a GP over here. Although the biggest win from seeing the nurse is that I have apparently grown 1cm, this officially graduates me from super short arse to slightly smaller than life-sized.
Oh and that pain in the vagina comment I made earlier? Well apparently any cervical smears you had outside the UK don’t count. If you are over 25 there is a requirement that when you register with a GP in the UK the first thing you have to do is get your cervix scraped…because you know FUN.
If all that was a bit too much and you actually have something wrong with you then I highly recommend the NHS walk in clinics. Downside is the wait time in a festering pit of disease (read: waiting room), but if you go super early and take a book to read its fine. You will get to see a doctor eventually, they will make you better and then because of the amazing NHS you won’t have to pay for it.
It will all be ok.
Fingers crossed that after all that life admin I don’t actually need the GP; that I can keep going with my Gilmore Girls and tea solution. But I guess this whole adult thing means I’ve done the right thing by registering, and at least now my friends will stop beating me up.