Wednesday, February 17, 2010

NHS: Scarier than a 3rd World Clinic

I'm still trying to catch up on a few posts after being off the grid for several weeks, but as the trauma from my most recent experience with the NHS is so fresh, I wanted to get this down now. may want to *stop* reading here.  This is about to become TMI (too much information).  Ladies...well, if any of you have plans for your first 'smear test' in the UK any time soon.  I'm sorry for the fear I'm about to strike in you!

I've touted the good of the NHS on more than on occasion, but my 'smear test' (pap smear) with the local Well Woman's clinic yesterday has made me re-think this whole stance

The clinic I set my appointment up with isn't my regular GP.  If your GP isn't 'equipped' to do these tests, you can easily be referred to other clinics in the area that are. OK.  Nice.  I picked a clinic that was about 10 minutes away from the flat and booked my appointment.  It wasn't until yesterday however, that I looked at Google maps to realize that the Clinic is actually located on what is known as a Council Estate.  Think  "Section 8" housing.  High rise flats for low income/support income families.  I don't mean to bash the concept of low income/support income....merely painting the picture.

After my intake meeting with the nurse, to go over basic paperwork, I return to the lobby to wait for the Doctor (I use this term loosely.  I truly don't even know if the person that did my exam was a doctor!...) to call me.  While sitting there, I noticed another couple in chairs.  How can I say this delicately?...They looked and acted as if they were coming down off a week-long binge-and I don't mean of the booze kind...  OK.

Eventually I was called into the doctors office/exam room.  I have noticed it is common here for doctors to have their offices/exam rooms combined, so I didn't think anything of it.  Silly me.  After a quick 30 second chat, she said, 'Ok.  Take off your bottoms & hop up on the table.'  I presumed she'd step out for a moment, so I paused.  She didn't move.  OK...
So, my 'bottoms' come off, and I hop up on the table-first noticing that I'm too short to hop up directly on the middle paper strip over the table.  So, theoretically, my bare-ass is supposed to hit the table, and then I'm to scoot onto the paper.  I decided to pull the paper over to the side of the table, but I wonder how many bare asses have hit the table (literally!), without doing this.  OK...
While hoping up on said table, I also happened to notice that there are no stirrups at the end of the table.   Odd, I think.  She's going to pull these out after I'm already up here?  OK...
Silly me.  There are NO stirrups.  She tells me to simply lie back, bend my knees, and 'open your legs and scoot my ankles as close to me as I can.' OOOK...

I then proceed to have a pap exam with the examiner literally bending over my leg-my knee was in her armpit the entire time.  Never mind the awkardness of what is already a very unpleasant experience, I've now got her pit on me, and the angle of my pelvis from just lying on the table with my 'ankles as close to me...' as they is not a comfortable position to be in for this type of thing.

Once the actual smear was done, that was it.  No manual exam.  No breast exam.  No nothing.  OK.

Oh, and the UK NHS will only allow the test once every years if you're normal.  That's it.  A slap-dash test, in a place that makes me believe I'm getting the exam in a 3rd world clinic, and I'm only supposed to have this done once every three years?!?  Part of me is thankful-I don't look forward to repeating this trauma any time soon, but this entire test just screams "ineffective."

Ladies, I don't know if this is a typical experience here in the UK, but it was such a shocking experience, I had to make note of it.  Never in my life did I think I'd look forward to a Pap smear in the US, but after yesterday, I can say with certainty that I will most definitely-and happily-have my next Pap in the US. Yikes.


  1. Oh dear! No its not typical in the UK, what a shame you had to experience it like that!

    Ive been in the UK 20 years and I have never been referred to a separate clinic, but that in itself isnt a bad thing. I can understand the location must have really been offputting though. Sheesh!

    They never do smears with stirrups here, only a gynecologist uses them in the more involved exams if you are referred to a hospital. Without stirrups is meant to be less intimidating as they aren't necessary for the smear test. I have heard British women become quite panicky when they're all hoisted up just for a smear (pap) in the States!

    No other exams are done because you're just in for the smear. If you would like other exams done, then you can request your Dr to do that. The person doing the smear is not likely a Dr, but a nurse. They are well trained to take the sample, and in fact they do more than Drs so this is fine.

    You can have as many as you like if you feel there is a need. If a patient is worried about something the GP should take the worry seriously and offer appropriate tests or exams. A GP is suppose to even go so far as referring a patient to a specialist if the patient is worried enough about a situation, so a smear every year is not a problem.

    I have several good friends who are Drs (including a GP) and my hubby is a hospital Dr so I speak from some experience!

    Hope you have better experiences in the future...!

  2. Ahhhhh! I am moving there in a month and now I am very, very afraid.

    Oh boy.

  3. @michelloui...oh, how I wish I would have know this before!!!
    Ironically, I think I prefer the stirrups. I guess it's just what you're used to.

  4. Not having stirrups is typical, that happened every time I had one, even while I was pregnant. And I was in a good trust.

  5. I had the EXACT. SAME. REACTION. I was all "No stir ups?" And the nurse padded my lag and said "NO, YOU POOR THING!" Say what?