Very few, if any, books have made me weep with laughter and cry with upset in the space of a couple of pages but Adam Kay’s memoir of his years as a junior hospital doctor managed it. The final chapter left me in bits for many reasons.
I ordered the book thinking it would be a 21st century continuation of Richard Gordon’s, “Doctor in the House” or Colin Douglas’s “The Houseman’s Tale”. In one sense it is; the language is not entirely medical, Adam refers to Obs & Gynae, his chosen speciality, as “brats and twats” and there is plenty of normal hospital human behaviour. Clearly the author was able to tolerate the life of a junior doctor even though, “The hours are terrible, the pay is terrible . . . But there’s no better job in the world”, until something happened.
The significant difference is that whilst the idealism, the diseases, the people and their mistakes have remained much the same, the political interference and attitude to professionals has fundamentally changed. Doctor in the House was written in the idealism of the immediate post-Bevan years (1952) and The Houseman’s Tale just pre-Thatcher (1978) when I was just starting my spell as a hospital resident. This is set in am era dominated by Jeremy Hunt’s predecessors and their ilk, (the author includes an open letter to The Secretary of State for Health) where there has been a slow strangulation of health care in spite of the best efforts of those working within it the system. These diaries were written during the years 2006-10, sadly things have not improved.
Essential reading for anyone who works in or is a recipient of healthcare in the UK – perhaps not if you and your partner are expecting your first child.
Available from The Book Depository HERE