Comparing patients’ notes


I have just had the “pleasure” of reading Suzan Collins’ book “Beyond My Control”

I put pleasure in inverted commas because it enraged me. It is a very factual and unemotional account of what must be one of the most harrowing situations possible. An elderly parent in the hands of uncaring and obstructive “professionals”.

Despite the fact that Suzan Collins is an expert in the field of care for the elderly, she was unable to get satisfactory results or even responses from the nursing home or hospital which treated her mother in a way that I would consider abusive and eventually manslaughter if not murder.

Why was I so outraged? Probably because I live in France where it is acknowledged that we have one of the best health-care systems in Europe. Yes, we pay through the nose for it out of our salaries but nobody quibbles because we know that we will get value for that money. There is no two-tier system where the poor have to wait years for treatment while the rich buy their way to the head of the queue.

Private surgeons are not taking up valuable time and facilities doing work on their own account using public property. Old people are not left in a corner to die and dignity is considered above all things. Cost is never a consideration. If you need an expensive MRI scan you get one. You paid your contributions, you are just as entitled as anyone else to the services.

The first time I woke up in a French hospital, having been through both sides of the British system, I thought I was in a private hospital and cried my eyes out. How was I going to pay for all this? Only two beds in a room, a TV on the wall, people asking me what I would LIKE to eat? This was nothing like the NHS hospitals I knew of old.

Our nurses are (with few exceptions) very kind and compassionate so one of them immediately came to see why I was crying. Did I need medication? Was I in pain? What could she do for me right this minute? (see any differences?) No – I worked, I paid my contributions, I had nothing to pay for unless I made phone calls from the telephone by my bed -yes, my own phone with the number written above the bed so people could call me and not cost me anything.

You will, by now, understand why I was grinding my teeth while reading of the treatment of this proud, elderly lady who didn’t want to make a fuss, be a bother.

This book should be required reading for all customers (yes, you are) of the NHS and every person who works for it in any capacity. At the end of each chapter is a list of useful rights, resources and organisations. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Suzan Collins
Suzan Collins

Please note that the original wording of this piece has been changed at the request of the author of the book and the vitriolic comments on Twitter by



3 thoughts on “Comparing patients’ notes

  1. Thankfully I understand enough to be able to hold my ground, and I never left my mother for more than a few hours at a time. Perhaps if they spent less time handwriting reams of paperwork and notes that get lost they might have time to care. And there are caring health professionals but they are stifled. As you have experienced for yourself it can be done.

  2. The French system sounds like the German one.I have an English friend who lives in Paris and who is terrified of ending up in an NHS hospital. When visiting the UK, she always tells her hosts: “If I become ill, no matter what`s the matter with me, as long as I can sit – or be propped – upright, put me on the next Eurostar back to France!”
    Very sorry to hear about this lady`s bad experiences with the NHS.
    And it always seems to be the older “no-need-to-make-a-fuss” generation that get the short end of the rope. So sad.

    1. Thanks both for commenting. I agree Jany, I’ve always said that if I were taken ill in the UK I would crawl back on the ferry on my fingernails to get to a French hospital.

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