19 MAY 1961, Page 14


SIR,--Hospital patients and ex-patients get tired of reading letters written by doctors, matrons and nurses to explain how splendidly the hospitals are run. No doubt delay is sometimes caused, as 'Another Con- sultant Surgeon' suggests, by difficulties of diagnosis, but often it is clearly due to bad organisation. As for the Consultant's remark—'this waiting may easily appear as delay and inconsiderateness to an anxious patient'—the obvious answer is : only if the nursing staff refuse to tell the patient what is going on. No doubt the Consultant's wife was told all about it while awaiting diagnosis, but would my wife have been so lucky? On the usual form she would have been risking a sharp snub if she had asked, however politely, for an explanation.

Certainly the nursing staff of a great hospital cannot always tell the whole truth to every patient. But anyone who has had much experience of hospi- tals at the receiving end will agree that a great deal of unnecessary anxiety might be saved if nurses were constantly reminded that it is natural for sick people to be anxious, and if they could be persuaded to treat every patient as a sensible human being in the absence of any specific reason to the contrary.

In his last paragraph 'Another Consultant Sur- geon' seems to imply that ex-patients ought not to complain of unsatisfactory treatment in hospitals because the truth might discourage recruiting. 1 believe on the contrary that telling the truth will tend, in the long run, to improve the relations be- tween nurses and patients, and thus make the job more attractive to the right type of recruit.—Yours faithfully,


59 Warwick Square, Westminster, SW1