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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all--

I'm a New Yorker who will be moving to London to attend a graduate program in the fall. I've been diagnosed with lupus for the past four years. I'm nervous about leaving my "known" health insurance and rheumatologist for a health system I know so little about. Do those of you across the pond find it easy to get a recommendation for a specialist under your health care system? Will I have a difficult time procuring perscriptions like Hydroxycholoquine, Azathioprine, and hydrocortinsone cream? I'm wondering if I should have my US doctor write me larger perscriptions that I can mail from the US.

I'm sorry for my ignorance-- I've finally found a rheumie I trust, and the thought of leaving him for a whole healthcare system I can't quite wrap my head around is making my brain hurt.

Thanks for reading! Hope you all have some sage advice!

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Hi elleth and :welcome:

I don't know much about living in the UK with lupus as when I lived there I didn't have it.

However, the system is quite different and it may take some time to get things going in the UK. I think that having a good supply (few months) of your usual meds in advance would be wise, as well as details from your current rheumy for the next doc. Registering with a GP in England is important as you will need referral from the GP to go and see a specialist.

It might be an idea to post a question in the "find a doctor" section so that people can make suggestions as to a rheumy in the area you are going to.
Don't wait until you have a problem to go and see a rheumy as you may have to wait for an appoinment. Far better to be on his/her books before you actuallly need it.

Those are just my thoughts. I'm sure there'll be some UK residents along soon with good advice,


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Welcome to the forum Elleth

All the usual drugs for treating lupus are available in the UK. You are eligible for free treatment under the National Health Service with a student visa planning to reside for more than a few months.
To use the NHS, you must register with a GP in your area once you have a fixed address. You can get an idea of which practices are in your post( zip) code area here:

Perhaps you will have neighbours who can recommend a GP practice. Otherwise it's a bit of a gamble. If you have a choice I would visit the practices to get a feel for them and have a word with the receptionists.
There are a great many partnerships with several doctors available, & a wide variety of services, running community health care centres with practice nurses. You will get first emergency services free at a practice or at a hospital or walk in clinic even if you aren't on a GP's list but if you have to be admitted then you face the prospect of having to pay if you are not on a GP's list.

The GP is pretty important because they refer you to the hospital specialists, whom we call "consultants" and they also prescribe on the consultant's recommendation and organise regular blood tests or any other tests for you. Sometimes special testing will be done at the hospital where the consultant works
As Katharine says it will take some time for a first appointment to come through. I think the waiting time at St Thomas' is under three months. Then you might have to wait for a follow up appointment and then treatment and other test recommendations and any test results to get through to the GP. They mnight be willing to forgo the follow up assuming you are stable and bearing in mind that you are not going to be a long term patient.
I can't say if a GP would prescribe medications without the say so of a UK licensed physician, but I very much doubt it, so definitely bring, I'd say, 4 months supply. But the GP might well be willing to prescribe the necessary regular blood tests for side effects of the medication eg the Imuran.

I imagine that you are coming only for the academic year. You might well not get the next follow up appointment at St Tom's for another year so going there at all might be rather fatuous. Maybe your best bet in these circumstances would be just to go private for one consultation to get a prescription.

Many people have private health care insurances to back up what's available on the NHS. This means they don't have to wait long for non urgent procedures & can see consultants fast and in general have a smoother ride in better surroundings. Not always better care though, let it be noted.

If you don't have private insurance you can still see a consultant privately and pay for it.
I think it costs about £250 a consultation at the private London Lupus Centre where top lupus specialists work, including NHS doctors from St Thomas. You have that option if you were to have any sudden lupus problems or if you needed a prescription. It can sometimes be a fast track onto the NHS services if there is a real problem

The GP will usually write a prescription from a private consultant
( as far as I know) so you can get the meds on the NHS at the usual prescription charge of about £7 per item. You can take out an annnual or half yearly prepay which can work out much cheaper depending on how many meds you need. If you make the situation clear to the GP he might be happy to make out a further prescription. Prescriptions can be for up to three months.

Meds can be sent from the USA but the one time I had this done it was a real palaver because we decided to state in detail what they were and had many forms to fill out including a statement from the prescribing doctor and then had to pay import duty about £15 ! None of my meds are pain killers So it certainly is possible and might be the best thing for such a short time.

You should most definitely have a detailed letter about your case and the meds you are on from your specialist.
Get it translated too - just kidding. :)

If you would like a lupus contact in London, let me know by PM

All the best

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Hi, I am also a New Yorker, then New Jerseyer then a Floridian living in the UK. I have been here for 7 1/2 years.

There is a big difference between the medical systems here in the UK from USA. I really can't falt the system here, as I can't fault it in the USA either. There are pros and cons to both sides. The one thing you need to remember is in the USA we pay for our health care, a large amount too, so there is really no limit as to what you want done as long as your insurance pays for it. It is a money making buisness in the USA. Here in the UK, the government pays for it. Yes we do pay national insurance but it is not the amount we pay in the USA. The only thing I can compare inational insurance to is the social security we pay on our wages in the USA, we then pay health insurance, I paid $160.00 a month for medical insurance for just my self and I also paid a lot of money per month to social security. I was still required to pay co-pays to see specialists, get my scripts filled and to see my regular doctor.

I hear a lot of people say if I lived in America I could get this or that. Well, that is true, that is if you have good insurance or have to money. People do not know the astronomical costs of medical treatment in America and what the health care professionals cost to see them or to have something done. It always seems as if the grass is greener on the other side. Working in the health care profession I get a lot of questions and a lot of people are misinformed about the USA health care system and when I explain to them how it works they are amazed at the cost. Here in the UK, it is not as much as a money making buisness as the USA, it is more a money saving system as the Government pays along with our payments into the national healh system. So you can see specialist as long as it is warented.

You will see this is a more reserved system but you can still get treatment for what is needed. In my GP surgery there are about 7 main doctors. Each with there own seciality or interest. One likes to do sports medicine, another likes menopausal woman, then you have ones that really enjoy sexual health or paliative care. Children are not seen by peadiatrics, they are seen by a regular GP then refered to pediatric specialists if needed. I would recomend you bring at least 2-3 months worth of prescriptions just to be safe. You will not be able to get American scripts filled here. You will have to see a GP to get them prescribed. The one thing you will find amazing is when you finish seeing your doctor you do not have to go to reception to pay for your doctors visit.

Another thing, boxed mac and cheese is not available so if you like it bring some with you and fretos (?SP), apple jacks, lucky charms and fruity pebbles and herseys chocolate is hard to find, you can get them on line but they are very expensive. ie lucky charms is £5.95 a box almost $12. A small bottle of maple syrup is about £3 ($6.00) for a 1/2 cup. You may be able to find things more available in London then where I live. I have to go into Manchester to get these things at Selfrages. I usually put in a list of wants to friends who are going on holiday to the USA or I stock up when I go back.

Neosporin, the greatest stuff ever is not available here and there is nothing sold in comparison, so bring some. Also, you can only get paracetamol (TYLENOL) max 32 tablets or ibuprofen (MOTRIN) max 32 tablets. Sometimes some places witll not sell you both at the same time. If you want anymore information or help don't hesitate to contact me through private message.

I too have SLE. Hope you settle in when you get here!

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
thank you thank you thank you!

Katharine, Clare and Stacie-- THANK YOU!

You all rock.

This is by far the best information I have been able to get on so many of these topics-- I am nervous (and thrilled!) about the move, and yet now I have more information on my healthcare than I have been able to find about almost anything else!

I have limited time on the computer today, but I look forward to going over all of this in much more detail-- and you can be sure I'm printing out all of these responses to keep with me.

Expect that I may very well take you up on you PMing offers. Your support is overwhelming.

(And for the record, the move is for a year, and I can get an additional two-year work visa after that, so maybe I will be around even longer!)

Heidi (elleth)
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