LittleDudeWithMuscles saidGlad you had good experiences. Is that generally the case in the UK? Is it true or not true that people generally have to wait a long time for surgery? (Sounds like you didn't.)
I'd like to hear more about the health care in UK, France, Canada, etc.
To answer from an Australia perspective, who, happen to have a very similar health care system (actually, it's almost exactly the same)
for general stuff you see a General Practitioner (GP) much like you do in the US, here, you don't have to pay or you can claim payment back through medicare.
For more serious matters we've the specialists, who you get referred to usually via a GP or other such thing, some of these people can be incredibly busy people, so you will sometimes have to make the appointment a few weeks out, unless it's important, then you can be bumped up to a few hours in some cases.
This is just for diagnosis however.
When it comes to cases of surgery, it's based on how needed it is, spinal, Cardiac, Neuro and a few others have the highest waiting lists but also the lest wait times, surgeons generally get through the list fast and it's graded from more important to least important and you are put on that list depending on your condition.
Then, there are others, again the same things still apply, based on importance of need and they can be a little slower however because the other problems are a lot more common based on the population, so the lists are longer and while the lists move fast unfortunately with the amount of operations constantly being added sometimes the wait can take a while.
Now, sometimes people have had to wait well over a year here for an operation, however, the thing the news media never tell you is the truth in the severity of the case, usually a year, isn't such a bad amount of time and are for minor problems that aren't crippling, don't really "affect" there life or life style in what is considered a major way and most importantly, they are always monitored by doctors, they are given pain management and if things get worse they are immediately moved up the list.
More importantly, I was given two scripts the other week, together I paid 10 for both of them, one was an anti-inflammatory and another one to treat reflux, 10 dollars was all it cost me to fill them and for my asthma puffers, I pay 8 dollars.
I know in the US for the same asthma puffer I use, the cheapest you can buy is 18 dollars (in US dollars) and it's half the capacity of mine.