I moved to England 13 years ago. As many French people, only a few years, before falling in love with the country. My children were born here, this is my home. I have never looked back.
The only thing I cannot get used to is the NHS system. If you are British, you may be wondering what my problem is – free health system, what am I complaining about? Let’s sum up my experience: 13 years of speedy appointments, during which I am invariably told to wait, that “at some point, the body will fight this” and sent back home. While I fully agree that antibiotics and drugs should not always be the answer, this noninterventionist approach is all wrong. The problem is not the lack of prescription, it’s the indifference. A GP will see as many patients he can a day, meaning 10 minutes max per person. Does he really have the time to listen? Isn’t his speech semi-automatic in the end? I have been told a few times, without being examined “from what you are telling me, your auto diagnostic is right”. Thank you for the vote of confidence but I am not a doctor. I leave feeling depressed. Or even let down if the appointment was for one of my kids: I’m the one who will tell us “Sorry, sweetheart, there is nothing I can do to help”. Possibly at 3 am. As for seeing a paediatrician, a gynaecologist, a dermatologist… I need to be referred by my GP which sometimes feels like an impossible mission.
The French approach is different. The family doctor will ask health questions but also more generic ones. Why? Because, often, what’s on your mind will have an effect on your body. Say, stomach aches following a hard to swallow event in your life. Us patients are too close to it to fully realise it. Our GP looks for the bigger picture. If no prescription applies, we feel seen, heard, understood. We breathe a little better. Many of us get their check-ups done when going on holiday in France. Another alternative is to visit Medicare, the French medical centre in London… but that means £92 per visit, £100 for a specialist (but no need for a GP referral). We might as well go for private British healthcare, but there might still be a mind the cultural gap.
Enters Qare, just a month old: the first telemedicine platform for the French community in London. Meaning we can access a network of 50 doctors, all living in France. GPs, of course but also dermatologist, psychologists, paediatrician, dentist, physiotherapist, midwife, gynaecologist… It’s easy: we subscribe, connect, arrange a web-meeting thanks to the camera on our laptop, ask as many questions as we want, without any time limit. The price? £119 per month, which covers you, your family and your children. It’s a little revolution in itself.
What can telemedicine do for you? Reassure you, inform you, too. Let’s face it: googling symptoms can be scarier than it needs to be. There is a lot professionals can diagnose via a simple camera. At least you will know what your next step should be rather than panic on your own. It also means a lot more flexibility in your life. Before freelancing, I have had to take half a day holiday to go to my NHS appointment: 20 mn drive (the clinic you are registered with usually is close to your home, not your work place), 10 mn trying to find a place to park, 15 mn in the waiting room, 7 minutes with the GP to be told, most often that “it probably will go away on its own”. I could have had the same discussion in a meeting room in my company during my lunch break. Or not had to wrap the kids warm and put them in the car to have the confirmation this was, indeed, chickenpox. And if you’re travelling and have a skin reaction to something or have food poisoning, you can connect to someone you know or has access to your file rather than look for a local doctor.
How does Qare work, then? You create an account fill your profile and medical history then ask for a consultation. The site is user friendly so it’s done in a minimum amount of clicks. You can request to talk to a GP immediately (it only took 5 minutes when I tried) or arrange for an appointment with your preferred GP or a specialist on a set date and time. The Qare network is available Mondays to Saturdays noon to 8pm and Sundays 2 to 6pm (London time). After the meeting, your doctor will add his notes and recommendations to your highly secured account – only you and the professional of your choice will have access to it.
What’s the verdict of my first connection Qare? Such relief. As a mum, I always wonder whether I really have done all I could to help the kids and my GPs short answers make me feel… brushed aside and not really convinced. Spring allergies, headaches on which Nurofen doesn’t work… What can I do? Should I go and see a specialist? Are there new treatments? Can someone explain the process without looking at their watch? I e-met the most wonderful doctor, friendly, smiling, caring. She first checked whether the audio and video connection were fine on my side, pointed out that there was a text box on the side if I had any problem at all. She listened, comforted me, asked questions about our routine, the recent changes, considered a wide range of possibilities, many I hadn’t thought of, advised a change from the normal treatment, recommanded different brands for hay fever. No need to take notes as the details will be added to my account. If there is any need for a follow-up, Qare will put you in touch with a French doctor of their network in London. Or if needs be can send someone to your home. I switched off… reassured, having finally been able to ask all the questions on my mind, not having felt like an over reacting/silly mummy. Let alone this was in my own language. Even after 13 years, I can feel lost in translation.
How is Qare different? Telemedicine is trendy in the US but only taking its first steps in the UK. Qare is the first telemedicine platform for the French community in London. It’s not that we don’t want to blend in. Sometimes we need someone to understand where we are coming from… There are British sites on the market, of course. Many though, are call centres and make their profit on the number of calls they get a day: you are limited in time and can only address one issue. Qare, however, has a real philosophy. They want to make a difference to your day, create a relationship, understand you to be able to help you better. Whether it takes 5 or 25 minutes to do this does not matter.
Qare | The first telemedicine platform for the French community in London
A network of 50 doctors, available Mondays to Saturdays noon to 8pm and Sundays 2 to 6pm (London time)
£119 per month