Posted by / Category Cultural Differences, London /

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the most difficult part of living abroad is to understand how the healthcare system works in your new country. And if, like me, you happen to have a husband who is virtually never home, no family nearby and a sick kid during the night, things can escalate pretty quickly. Knowing how to navigate the system becomes even more critical. Easier said than done. It sometimes feels like banging your head on a wall. Been there, done it.

Believe me, it is very stressful, and it feels pretty lonely. To make matters even worse, as I grew up in France, I am used to the fantastic French healthcare system, and I took it for granted. In my home country, every time we have needed urgent medical attention (which maybe happened twice), the system was here for us, sending a doctor at my doorstep to deal with a sick baby, and delivering the required medication in the middle of the night. For free of course. I must admit that I thought it was completely normal, and I was expecting the same level of service in London. Silly French me.

Needless to say, it was a steep learning curve. Things were not quite the same, and I spent a few sleepless nights, worrying that one of my children might not make it after spending hours on end waiting, and eventually talking on the phone to someone I had clearly interrupted in the middle of his/her cup of tea. The thing was, I sometimes considered going to the nearest A&E department, but didn’t know what to do with my other child (the one who was not sick). Could/Should I leave her at home? Did I have to take her with me? I took both children to the hospital in the end once. It wasn’t easy. Not to mention that we spent a long time there. Nightmare.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not here to criticise the NHS, and praise other systems. I know full well that all systems have their strengths and weaknesses. And frankly, a comparative analysis between systems doesn’t help at all when you have to deal with projectile vomiting and other niceties in the middle of the night. No time to write an essay. The fact remains that I sometimes felt badly let down. As a result, I am always looking for solutions to make my life easier. I recently came across a new service that I would have liked to know during the nights spent caring for a sick child:
To cut a long story short, if you are in London (see their site for details), they send a doctor to you pretty fast, and can take care of prescriptions if need be. Did I mention that the service works 24/7? The cost is a flat fee of £70 and if you mention QURED60  you’ll get a 60% discount on your first visit. I wish I had known. I really do. But hey, we survived. Onwards and upwards, as they say. That said, I’ll use the service when I am back to Blighty.

So where does this leave me? Well, so far, healthcare in Australia seems pretty good. I managed to get an emergency appointment with a GP within the hour, on a Sunday morning. Not bad, eh? And the pharmacy was opened too. All for half of the cost it would have been in London. My daughter could take her antibiotics immediately, and she’s on the mend. That said, I will never take things for granted again. Obviously you can’t prepare for everything, but I clearly was naive to expect everything (good or bad) to work like in my home country. Lesson learned. How about you, how do you manage in a foreign country when your kids are sick? Tell me, what’s your secret?


Disclosure: I have teamed up with for this post. All opinions remain mine.