BEFORE YOU START: Please note that although I currently volunteer for both the Stroke Association and Age UK, the views expressed in this blog are strictly my own. I am not a spokesperson for either (or, indeed, for any) organisation, and I accept complete responsibility for the views expressed herein. As indicated by the domain name, I am based in the UK and the blog therefore has a UK bias - I've tried to use the Glossary to explain any ambiguous terms, but if you think there is anything I've missed, please message me.


The NHS most likely needs no introduction, since it must surely be known the world over. It is the UK's National Health Service, and covers the vast majority of health services offered in the UK, including hospitals and doctor's surgeries (and my eye clinic, to which I make regular visits). Its great boast is that it is free at the point of contact, although we all pay a hefty amount for it in our taxes. Because the government of the day is so integral to its funding, it is a punchbag and a frequent target when the government wants to save money. There is a (growing) private health sector in the UK, but the NHS is pretty much universally-used for acute emergencies, although the quality of these provisions, as I try to convey in my posts, is extremely variable, with one factor being whereabouts in the UK you happen to be. As an estimate (such data is not made public), the cost of a hospital bed is around £400/day (April 2017, some say the figure is closer to £1000), meaning that my own stay in hospital (and, very roughly, the ballpark cost of a stroke - although many spells in hospital are longer than mine) cost the UK taxpayer around £14k. This, in turn, accounts for one of the reasons why hospitals are so reluctant to admit people. Of course, this emount excludes both the benefits I have been receiving since the stroke (around £400/month), and the tax that I would have contributed to the economy had I been fully fit (of course, this value is hypothetical, although based on previous years it was roughly a few tens of thousands of pounds). On a related note, there are bound to be times when I talk about "the hospital". Obviously it will be dependent upon context, but it is likely that I will be referring to my local hospital in Salisbury, Wiltshire.

Again regarding health, for anybody unfamiliar with UK prescriptions, they are issued by somebody's local doctor (called their GP), and are basically a paper slip which is signed by them. For people with chronic illnesses, who require the same medication time and again, these are known as "repeat prescriptions", and most doctors' surgeries have some kind of system whereby someone can just request the prescription when they need a fresh batch of meds, without having to see the doctor. Armed with this slip, one then goes to a pharmacy, and exchanges the slip for the meds. In theory there is an equivalent electronic system, where the individual logs on to some web site in order to request fresh meds, the doctor approves the request and it then goes to your chosen pharmacy. The pharmacy then fulfil the prescription as they would if the process were manual, and the individual just visits the pharmacy at the end of the process, to pick the meds up. Online pharmacies have sprung up too, these promise to send your meds to your door for next-day delivery. I say "in theory" - basically because for this to work there is a requirement for the doctors' surgery to take part in this scheme. Mine doesn't (March 2018). I've seriously thought of changing surgeries because of this, but that swathe of initial appointments, where a surgery establishes my requirements, puts me off.

The DWP is the Department for Work and Pensions, an agency of the UK government, responsibly mainly for the benefits system. Until last year, I had never had anything to do with the benefits system, though I now receive ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) and PIP (Personal Independence Payment).

On a more personal note, I am diabetic so sometimes talk about my eating habits. When I mention supper, I'm talking about my evening meal. This meal can have different names even within the UK, let alone abroad.

I do have quite an interest in politics, and the Conservative Party, UKIP (UK Independence Party), and the Liberal Democrats are all UK political parties. If I talk about a party with a more "international" name, such as the Labour Party or the Green Party, then unless I state otherwise, I'm referring to the UK flavour of the party.

The Stroke Association, and Age UK are the UK's national charities for stroke sufferers and the elderly, respectively.

Another charity that I have found useful is called Different Strokes (hopefully its name gives its purpose away). This UK charity appears to focus on younger survivors, so is a little feistier than other charities. My main contact with them so far has been through their Facebook group - I get a little more of a "can do" vibe from its members, rather than "poor me". I tend to get fed up quite quickly when people post things like "good morning".

Disability Rights UK is a pressure group which lobbies UK authorities on behalf of disabled people. Many stroke survivors, including myself, fit the legal definition of "disabled", so this group is particularly relevant to me.

I mention coffee shops very occasionally. Of course, Starbucks is a global brand, but chains like Costas - a like-for-like competitor to Starbucks - also exist in the UK. I'm not sure that they exist outside of the UK, but I mention it just in case.... there are other chains, such as Nero or Pret a Manger, although personal preference dictates that I hardly ever go to either, and numerous independent shops - I very much doubt there's any difference between the UK and the USA in terms of the popularity of outlets.