Differences in emergency room visits between the US and the UK for an American mother

  • When we were visiting friends in London, my daughter had an asthma attack caused by allergies.
  • My friends helped me navigate the UK healthcare system and we ended up in the ER.
  • Our visit was friendly and incredibly efficient.

My daughter has allergy-induced asthma. That means that sometimes when she’s around an allergen, every breath is punctuated by a wheeze.

He has a rescue inhaler for these episodes. Two quick breaths and his breathing returns to normal.

Shortly before our trip to London to visit friends, his inhaler broke. I asked the pediatrician for a new one. The pediatrician said he would have to take her to the office the next time she wheezed if she wanted a refill. I didn’t want to wait for an episode. I said that what she needed was not a refill because the broken inhaler still had doses. The argument went round in useless circles.

We went to London without an inhaler. My daughter has very few asthma attacks in any given year and the risk seemed almost non-existent.

Of course, it wasn’t.

The friends we were visiting had a dog and an allergy pill was not enough to control their symptoms. My daughter had an allergy-induced asthma attack in London on Easter Sunday.

I called his pediatrician in the US.

My first step was to call my pediatrician in the United States. I left a message on the answering service and they never called me back.

Our friends in London helped us navigate the UK medical system, which initially seemed more complicated than the US system. Doctors are general practitioners, pharmacists are chemists, and urgent care centers aren’t that easy. to find

We called the only pediatric urgent care center in the area, closed for vacation. We called all private doctors who completed our Google search, also closed. The only option was the one she hoped to avoid: the emergency room.

I am familiar with emergency rooms in the United States. During my husband’s battle with brain cancer, we visited them frequently. There are some constants: the endless forms, the long hours waiting for tests, results and treatment, and the expense.

We ended up in the ER

My daughter and I took a taxi to the emergency room, known in London as “accidents and emergencies” or A&E. The receptionist took down our names, asked my daughter’s age, and had me write my home address on a piece of paper she tore from a notebook.

After a few minutes of waiting in a brightly colored room, we were ushered into an exam room. A nurse asked us questions and examined my daughter. The doctor looked at the photo she had taken of my daughter’s inhaler, which had the name of the medication and how many doses she had left when it stopped working.

At this point, his breathing had returned to normal. She knew that this relief would be short-lived and that by the time we got back to the dog, she would be panting again. I braced myself for another discussion with medical professionals. No argument came. Although they heard no wheezing, they believed me and my daughter and agreed that she needed an inhaler.

They monitored her. At some point, a nurse brought her a chocolate Easter egg in case she got hungry.

We left A&E, inhaler in hand, after an hour. It was only once we were standing on the sidewalk that I realized how different the experience was. There was no clipboard full of forms, no unnecessary tests. They had even given him a sandwich.

Every moment of our ER visit was efficient, patient-friendly, and markedly different from any other ER experience I’ve ever had.

For the rest of the trip, my daughter used the inhaler as directed, avoided the dog as much as possible, and enjoyed the trip of her life.

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