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This was a bit of a wild card for me. I’m not usually drawn to non fiction books but I had heard good things about this and I was not disappointed. The book was published in 2017 by Picador. It is a collection of diary entries made by Adam Kay during his time as a junior doctor in the NHS. He worked for the NHS for six years as a junior doctor, working his way up the ranks in the gynaecology and obstetrics department before finally giving up his career due to the pressures he faced.
I would pair this book with a very strong cup of English breakfast tea. The strong but bright flavour matches perfect with the light but intense tone of the book. There are some heavy themes discussed during the book, so a good strong cup of English breakfast will steel the reader for some eye opening truths and intimate discussions of a medical nature.
Much like most of the population of the UK, I am extremely proud of our National Health Service. They have always been there for me, through childhood illnesses to the birth of my son. I can visit the doctor and not have to worry about bankrupting myself, and that is a freedom we should never take for granted. We must protect our NHS with everything we have because free healthcare, along with free education, should be a basic human right. It was partly my experience of the NHS, particularly my recent pregnancy, which prompted me to pursue this book. I know what it is like to be a patient, so now I wanted to know what it is like to be a doctor.
The book itself is hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud at multiple points while I was reading. The text is witty and darkly humorous, and quite grim in places. Doctors seem to deal with an awful lot of bodily fluid, I shuddered at some of the horrors Kay describes during his time as a doctor. He keeps the tone of the book light for the most part, but there is a clear undercurrent of anger. It is obvious that Kay went into the NHS with all the right intentions. He wanted to help people and was excited at the prospect of working for the NHS. However as the book goes on, it becomes evident the toll working as a doctor takes on your personal life. Not only are you responsible for people’s lives at work, you are expected to work so hard there is no time left for yourself.
This book was a huge eye opener for me. I think most non-medics are guilty of not really seeing doctors as the people they are, myself included. To be fair, its much easier to get your bits out in front of someone if you just think of them as some sort of medical android, but this thought does doctors an injustice. It shocked me just how tough the working conditions are in hospitals. Shifts are too long and the pay is too low, and yet these people still show up to work and try to help you as best they can. The book does not disparage the NHS however, its more a cry for help to protect and improve what we have.
Behind the humour and the heartbreak, the overall message of the book is clear. Protect the NHS at all costs, and don’t forget that doctors are people with feelings too. Ask them how they are every now and again.
You can get a copy of the book here.