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  1. Claire Rayner

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Admitting to schadenfreude is a shaming experience, especially when the malicious delight that one is taking in the shortcomings of a healthcare provider which has been lauded as being of better quality than most in the Western world inevitably means one is appearing to take equal delight in a patient’s misery.

Let me therefore spell out my precise reactions to Professor Senders’ story. First, as one who spends much time working with UK hospital managements, I found comfort in hearing that Canadians—superb though we all know their health service to be—have the same problems that exist here in the UK. However, as one who also works closely with patients, support groups, and who has been a patient herself on far too many occasions, I found myself saddened to read of a patient going through the same tiresome hassles many of us experience here.

Food being delivered to the bedside but not to the patient is a case in point. Professor Senders, I have no doubt, left hospital a deal thinner than he was when he went in—and some of that weight loss was due, it is virtually certain, not to the effects of his disease and its treatment but to the failure of the hospital to pay sufficient attention to an area of care that may seem—when compared with delivering miracles of surgery and amazingly powerful and complex modern radiotherapy and drugs—to be very small potatoes.

The decision by the family that a relative should be present at every meal service after one meal had been placed so far away from Professor Senders that he couldn’t reach it, and had been taken away untouched with no staff member seeming to care, rang loud bells with me. The same complaint has been made in UK hospitals for years, ever since overseeing …

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