The Case of the Difficult Dressing Gowns

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When comedian Spike Milligan returned home from a full medical check-up in 1971, he decided to write to Bupa with some feedback; in particular a complaint about the "gruesome" dressing gowns supplied to patients.

The chain of correspondence that followed can be enjoyed below.

Transcript follows. Images courtesy of The Spike Milligan Letters.



Transcript
To: BUPA

4th May 1971

Dear Sirs,

I recently had a full medical check-up at your BUPA Medical Centre and they asked on a pamphlet had I any suggestions.

1. I think the gruesome short dressing gowns the men have to wear are very very embarrassing and I think full length dressing gowns, down to the ankle, ought to be supplied.

2. Did the test I had include a test for cancer?

3. What types of cancer do they look for? Also I do not think I had a heart x-ray.

I wonder if you could answer me these questions.

Yours faithfully,

SPIKE MILLIGAN

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6th May, 1971

Dear Mr. Milligan,

Thank you for your letter and the helpful suggestions that you have made.

We find the problem of dressing-gowns an ever recurring source of difficulty. People either complain that they are too short or too long and it seems impossible to be able to suit everybody.

As you know, there is no specific test which can exclude cancer. However, the blood tests that you have sometimes give an indication of this and yours were, of course, quite normal. The x-ray of your chest is a very good screening for cancer of the lung and sometimes the straight x-ray of the abdomen can give an indication of abnormality.

I hope this satisfactorily answers your questions and once again may I thank you for having taken the trouble to write to us. It is constructive criticism such as yours which enables us to improve our service.

Yours sincerely,

(Signed)

Sidney Kay, M.D.,
Medical Director

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7th May 1971

Dear Dr Kay,

Thank you for your letter of 6th May.

I think I can sort out your problem of the dressing-gowns. Why not have one long and one short dressing gown in each cubicle.

Sincerely,

SPIKE MILLIGAN

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10th May, 1971

Dear Mr. Milligan,

Thank you very much for your excellent suggestion. It may create some difficulties with people who are what are described of as average size. However, I will certainly tell our receptionist to ask people if they would particularly like a long or a short dressing gown and try to suit them accordingly.

I made myself very ill laughing at the repeat of your programme on television the other night and am not a little disappointed that when you were here we did not diagnose that you are suffering from "earthquakes" in the very stages of this very serious condition!

Yours sincerely,

(Signed)
Sidney Kay, M.D.,
Medical Director

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17th May 1971

Dear Dr Kay,

Do you know that most average sizes of people are tall or short? I think that the size you should have is average, tall or short, dressing gowns which would fit everybody.

I have just been to Naples to see Vesuvius and would you believe it the bloody fools have let it go out.

Sincerely,

SPIKE MILLIGAN

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19th May, 1971

Dear Mr. Milligan,

Thank you once again for your helpful note.

We have given the matter further consideration and decided that probably our best course is to tackle patients' knees. It seems to us that some form of knee disguise may well prove to be a most effective answer and avoid all embarrassment. If they were not recognisable as knees then people would not really worry as to what they were seeing.

How unfortunate for you to have been to see Naples and to have found Vesuvius out!

Yours sincerely,

(Signed)
Sidney Kay, M.D.,
Medical Director

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21st May 1971

Dear Dr Kay,

The Case of the Difficult Dressing Gowns

The knees' disguise is all very well but supposing somebody walks around the back, what then? On no, sir, if the knee is to be disguised and the back of the knee left in existence a false plastic knee will have to be fitted to the back of the leg to prevent an optical illusion when the man has his legs in the reverse position to his body. But then, the moment he kneels down for his cholesterol count the whole game is given away and the knee disguise revealed for what it is, a flagrant forgery. No, I propose that we have floor length dressing gowns and then a 2ft dwarf will be inserted in the wearer's insteps to give the impression of mobility.

I hope this is all clear to you - I have opened a file called 'The BUPA Affair'.

Good news. As you know, they have transferred the fire from Vesuvius to Mt. Etna which is working beautifully. Book now for the third San Francisco, due any minute.

Sincerely,

SPIKE MILLIGAN

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27th May, 1971

Dear Mr. Milligan,

Since receiving your letter of the 21st, we have been attacked by a devastating epidemic of disappearing knees. The pathetic high pitched cries of the knees as they despairingly slip out of sight is terribly heartrending. We have brought in large numbers of 9' dwarfs to try and deal with this catastrophic situation, all to no avail. We eagerly await your next helpful suggestion.....

And now for a look at the weather in the South East, over to Jack Scott in the London Weather Centre.

With kind regards,

Yours sincerely,

(Signed)
Sidney Kay, M.D.,
Medical Director