Once you’ve settled into your rental accommodation, find your local General Practitioner (GP) / doctor and register with them. Do not put this off until you need medical treatment. Instructions follow…
If you’re not registered with a GP when you do need medical treatment, you will have to go to the hospital that services your address.
- Visit this link for Scotland to find the correct hospital.
- Visit this link for Scotland to find out which medical practitioner or facility you can get help from after-hours.
It will not necessarily be the hospital closest or most convenient to your address. For us, that means a 1.5-hour commute via two buses to get to the hospital or pay £20 in cab fare each way.
I got my first head cold, sinus infection about 6 weeks after we arrived in the UK. And despite the best intentions, I hadn’t gotten around to registering with our GP yet. I had it on my to-do list but had not done it yet because we were reasonably healthy and busy working straight away.
But then, my first Scottish flu struck me down and it was a real beastie. It hung on with huge sharp teeth…
Antibiotics – after hours
It was after 6 pm on a Friday night when I suspected I needed more help than what a weekend packed with sleeping in could offer. With no option to go to a doctor, I had to go to the local hospital to get an antibiotic script and some tablets to last me until I could fill the prescription at the pharmacy the next day.
There aren’t late night chemists, pharmacies, drug stores (whatever you like to call them) all over the place like there are in most parts of Australia and the US.
It was a long wait for a bus to get to the hospital and then another long wait to catch a bus to get home.
Hospital waiting time
The waiting time at the hospital to get treatment was minimal because I had called ahead and provided my details and symptoms. I called NHS 24 on 111. When I got to the hospital they knew exactly why I was there and the doctor came and got me within 10 minutes. She wrote me a script, gave me some tablets to last until the next day, and sent me on my way. Nothing to sign. Nothing to pay.
Then we had to get home. On a budget, we didn’t want to spend £20 on a cab so we headed back to the bus stop. It was a cold, dark, wet and windy night as we stood in the bus shelter. Alone. For about 45 minutes. It was actually Halloween so we did see some witches and other ghouls roaming the nearby streets. I had a fever, headache, stuffed nose and aching joints. There was nowhere to sit that was dry. I was miserable to say the least. So we huddled like Emperor penguins and waited for the hourly bus.
- I told myself then that I would always carry £20 to cover emergency cab trips.
- When we finally got home after 10 pm that night, I vowed to go straight to the doctor’s the next day and register our family. And collect my drugs. And withdraw £20 to keep in my wallet for future cab rides.
Register at your local doctor
As I said, had I been registered at my local doctor’s, I could have called them to issue a script to collect from my chemist and avoided my hospital ordeal. I would have been in bed by 6 pm, four hours earlier!
- Got to http://nhs24.co.uk to find out where your local GPs are.
- Visit and collect medical registration papers from your local GP – explaining that you are entitled to free NHS. They will hear your accent and be suspicious – thinking you should be paying them private patient fees. Like, no! You’ve just paid thousands of dollars to cover free health services.
You cannot register at a GP outside of your area and you can only be registered at the one doctor. You also can’t visit different doctors. Prepare to wait a day or more for an available appointment and weekend hours are virtually non-existent. You’ll need to go to the local hospital for any weekend and out-of-hours services, e.g. injury, antibiotics.
The next day, I spent an hour filling out our family registration pack for the doctor’s and walked my weary body 20 minutes to the doctor’s surgery to drop in the papers. They said our family would be registered in about 5-10 working days and we would then be free to make appointments. It only took 5 days and they called to say everything was good.
Collecting a script from the pharmacy
Next stop on my journey was the pharmacy to collect my antibiotic script. In Scotland, you hand over your script and they give you your medication. You do have to wait for about 10-30 minutes as always but there’s no money to pay. Scripts are free for most prescribed pharmaceuticals. Our experience so far is limited to antibiotics but everyone tells us it is the same for most prescription drugs. I left with my baggy of good bacteria killing meds, feeling a bit naughty because I hadn’t forked out $10 to $30. I retreated home to jump under the covers and sleep the day away.
You can register at any dentist but you can only be registered at one dentist at a time. I registered near my workplace in Glasgow City, so it’s handy for lunchtime, before or after work appointments.
Dental check-ups are free and things like mercury fillings are heavily subsidised. But, if you want an amalgam/white filling then expect to pay nearly £100 per molar. I was unlucky and (while on a super-tight budget, two weeks before payday) I pulled out a 30-year old mercury filling while flossing one night and had to find out the hard way about dental costs.
They’re free in Scotland. I can’t speak for the rest of the UK. Our younger son gave himself a concussion with his own kneecap in physical education class (doing gymnastics) and had to take a ride to one of the main hospitals.
There are at least three hospitals in Glasgow but the Accident and Emergency hospital used by ambulances is usually the one closest to the city.
Again, cab fare home is about £20. And, because it’s not really fair to throw your child onto several buses, in the cold of night, when they’ve just been knocked out and could throw up on any sharp corner or deep pot-hole, we caught a cab. Always keep £20 in your wallet as emergency cash for cabs.
Chemists, Supermarkets and Health Food Stores
A word on pharmaceuticals. Paracetamol and iBuprofen in Scotland (because I can’t speak for England) is a restricted drug. If you’re under 21 years of age (I think), you can’t buy either of them. If you are over 21 years old you can only buy one 16 tablet packet of each. If there are two or more of you buying groceries in a group, your group is limited to one packet of each. They’re cheap but very hard to purchase. If you want to keep a packet of each in each of your bags, in the house, at work – like we do – then you need to buy a packet of each, each time you visit the store and stock up.
Australians are lucky in that they can buy alternative therapy items in supermarkets as well as health food stores. Take water soluble lavender oil for example. We use it to keep our ears (inside and behind) clean and dry and for rubbing onto glands when swollen, and lots of other reasons. We used to buy it in Woolworths or Coles or any chemist really. But here, in Glasgow, I can’t find it anywhere. Same goes for tea tree and eucalyptus oil. Very hard to find and if you do, they cost a small fortune. No lavender oil dilutions – only full strength aromatherapy oils. If we want to use it for other than aromatherapy, we have to prepare it ourselves. I’ll have to go online.
Some advice on first aid bandages and inner soles
A word of advice. Buy comfy inner soles for your sandshoes (joggers, sneakers, runners – whatever you call them) and bring them with you. Bring your own shoes as well!
Since arriving we easily walk 10,000 to 20,000 steps a day. Quite a few of those steps are completed while running to catch buses.
I also nearly broke my shin bone in the first hour in Glasgow attempting to wheel my 25kg suitcase up the cobbled-stoned hills. That’s another story.
So I quickly found ourselves in the market for a bandage, gel ice packs and comfy sandshoes. First, I looked for a self-adhering, compression bandage to help me cope with my pain and swelling. Like the kind of bandage, I used in Australia time and time again.
I was hopeful I would easily find what I was looking for. You see, there are massive pharmacies under the banners of Boots and Superdrug all over Glasgow. Huge, multi-storey places with whole floors dedicated to cheap to mid-priced make-ups and other toiletry products. But, try and find a decent bandage or comfy innersoles for your sandshoes and you will farting against thunder.
They told me ‘You have to buy stuff like that online‘. Silence. I went to a sports store where they sell sandshoes and they also didn’t have comfy inner soles. More silence. Again they said, ‘Try Amazon‘. In Australia, stores like Footlocker and Athletes Foot hard sell inner soles with every purchase. WTF!
So then I asked for rectangular reusable gel ice packs. The kind you put in the freezer and use on bruises, knees and other injuries. Again, nothing. ‘You have to buy stuff like that online‘. You’ve got to be kidding me. Either people don’t get injured, don’t use first aid accessories or they have their own stash from years of shopping online.
Luckily, the local pharmacy had two perfect ice packs (even if they were in their original 20th-century packaging) that we rapidly snapped up, while limping home in our thin-soled, nearly dead walking shoes.
Again. Buy comfy inner soles for your sandshoes (joggers, sneakers, runners – whatever you call them) and bring them with you. Bring your own sandshoes as well!
Also, if you like to wear the occasional bandage for injuries – bring them with you.
If you have Viking blood like our family and are ‘gifted’ with big feet, broad shoulders, above average height and child-bearing hips (for the ladies) – do not expect to find footwear and clothing in a physical store.
They will say, ‘Go online‘, ‘Try Amazon‘ or ‘Try our online store‘ [for freaks like you]. And better still, ‘We don’t keep ‘those’ sizes in the shop because nobody is that big. There just isn’t a market for those sizes’.
They will tell you that to your face! Keep your hands in your pockets. Only imagine you bitch-slapped them stupid onto their arse for being rude. And. Just. Walk. Away. I had to buy my sandshoes from the men’s section of a sporting store and elevate my massive lady feet with two layers of crappy inner-soles to get comfortable. I also now have an Amazon Premium account that gives me free next day delivery for most things.
You’re not in Kansas anymore Dorothy
Yeah. I knew there were going to be some differences. But I only really had Australia, America and Thailand to use as comparisons. Surely a well-populated city like Glasgow would have some of the usual man-made comforts. Yeah. No. We’re learning. There are lots of differences. Medical services and health accessories are just some of them. There are many others.
If you’re a local Glaswegian – or Auswegian like us – what other differences have you noticed? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.