British Medical Bureaucracy & Safe Needle Practices

Oh wow, the British love their bureaucracy! I should’ve been aware of this after the visa application and then setting up the bank account, but I underestimated the British and their healthcare system. In Australia it is a simple process of making an appointment with the doctors and turning up – if you’re not on the system then you just have to pay. This however is not how the British operate I found out. I was wrongly operating under the assumption I could go to the doctors here and do the same. No, you have to register, this process takes at least two days, then you have to see a nurse to be assessed and only after this you are allowed to see the doctors.

I found myself needing a script urgently (yes, I know contributory negligence on my behalf but it’s for a drug that doesn’t require a script in Australia) and being told there was nothing I could do to get a script for at least a week unless I went to A&E at the hospital (Accident & Emergency Centre). So, I found myself sitting in emergency last week for hours and then being referred to GP onsite. The GP advised me to begin with that she wouldn’t write me a script because it wasn’t an “emergency,” as I only need this medication every couple of months. However, I wasn’t leaving without my script as this was the only way I could get it (I was invested in this now after wasting a day). Finally, she wrote it for me and here is where I thought my saga ended.

No, I then went to fill the script – was okay until I asked for the needles which I needed to self-administer this drug, which you’re allowed to do in Australia. Nope, the British do not let you self-administer drugs through needles, only a nurse or doctor can do this. Here I found myself with the drugs and no way to take it. We went back to the GP we registered with. Fortunately, I had my doctor back in Australia print my medical history, so I was able to prove that I needed the drug without a blood test and they got in me a day earlier.

Lessons learned – register for the doctors as soon as possible so when you do need to go you don’t have this issue. Print your medical history from your doctors when moving to a new country, as this was invaluable.

However, this whole process did raise my thoughts about safe needle practices in the UK. I personally do not think that restricting people’s access to clean needles is responsible. It is my belief that people who have an addiction are not going to just stop taking drugs because they can’t get needles – they will instead reuse them. This raises the risk of infections and contracting diseases such as HIV/AIDs and hepatitis. I have found through research that there are needle exchange programs running in the UK but it’s hard just to get the needles here to begin with!


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