GP and private insurance
National healthcare system in UK has got a preventative approach: when they were banning indoor smoking, they did it wisely to convince people not only to smoke outside but also to smoke less. This way NHS was reducing their indirect costs caused by having to take care of consequences of smoking.
France on the other hand, just increased taxing on tobacco products thus making the market go into shadow and allowing counterfeit production blossom (something that Onischenko might induce in Russia, doh).
However, not everything is brilliant about NHS, especially for Eastern Europeans where medicine has got a let-me-treat-you-from-everything approach. Broadly speaking GPs look at you and say: there are two types of illnesses – ones we don’t need to treat, you will be fine, take some paracetamol and ones that we can’t do anything about, so try paracetamol and see what happens.
Having got some experience with NHS and private insurance in UK I came up with the following algorithm:
if I need an appointment with a specific doctor/specialist (ENT, osteopath etc) I get an appointment with my GP and describe the reasons of my visit. I tend to exaggerate the seriousness of an issue to make sure I get a referral letter from the GP.
In parallel I research which hospital is convenient in terms of logistics (close to the office, to my home, on the way to my hairdresser etc) and check their website to see what specialists they have. Having jotted down some names I call my insurer and request an authorization number to get an appointment with a specialist. I convince them I need this appt based on GP referral and check which doctors are approved by my insurer (cause not all of them are).
Having got my authorization number which essentially is the promise of the insurer to pay your bills I call the hospital directly, book an appointment with the doctor and provide my details.
Most often private insurance is provided by your employer, some of them cover not only you but your partner as well (you don’t have to be officially married). Standard corporate contract includes 10 massage/osteopathy sessions per year which is indispensable for office plankton like myself. Check if you are entitled to free eye test voucher at work which you can take to any optician (eyesight is supposed to be tested once every 2 years).
Another tip is to check if medicine is cheaper over the counter or on prescription (you would expect prescription is cheaper but not necessarily, I am not sure why), if you are on benefits/pregnant then drugs should be free (=paid for by NHS).
Feel free to add your tips/lifehacks in the comments ;)