I’ve joined a Book Group, have I told you that already? I have absolutely no recollection of what I’ve said where anymore so apologies if that is old news. Anyway, I have and I will be sharing most of those reads with you here. I say most as I got off to a rather inauspicious start with the first one and haven’t quite worked out what to say about that yet. However, roll on to month two and the chosen book, This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay.
This book has plenty of reviews already, is a bestseller and is high, if not actually number 1, in the rankings, at least in the UK. For obvious reasons, mostly because of it being set in the NHS, it is not quite as popular in the US. It doesn’t need my review but actually I’m still making the effort because for me this book corrected an assumption I’d made, and opened my eyes up to the view from a doctor’s perspective on the bloody trenches he served in within the NHS.
I really enjoyed Kay’s writing and because it was set out as diary entries it made the book a quick read. I liked the footnotes, sometimes funny, or a casual aside, sometimes imparting useful information, so there was an element of learning in there too.
I mentioned an assumption above, which was that I thought doctors were highly paid. This is based purely on the fact that when I was horrified about the amount of debt my son was going to rack up, when he was considering pursuing a career in medicine, I was told that doctors were usually the first to pay back their student loans because their wages were so high. From this book that appears not to be the case.
Adam Kay came across to me as a conscientious, hardworking and dedicated doctor (if a slightly sarcastic one, his words, not mine, and I am a fan of sarcasm) and it is to the shame of the NHS that he is not still practising. However, medicine’s loss is comedy’s gain, I guess.
I understand that medicine is a vocation, but it shouldn’t mean that those that follow that path should be taken advantage of by being worked into the ground, with time off cancelled on a whim and regular unpaid overtime, a knock on effect being strained friendships and ruined relationships.
I felt this book highlighted so many issues that are wrong in the NHS – the fact that wards are underequipped, shifts inadequately staffed, and I was staggered by the seemingly complete lack of support for all the employees. In fact, if anything the management appeared to make life as difficult as possible for them every day – no free parking and beds removed from on-call rooms just a couple of examples.
How on earth can you expect people to work a 97-hour week and still function correctly? And yet this is absolutely what is happening week in and week out to people who are dealing with life and death situations every day. Of course mistakes are going to be made.
This book is funny, in places, darkly funny you might say, gallows humour I think Kay calls it at one point. I like that kind of funny and it’s just as well it had those moments because when the heartbreak comes it really hits hard.
Why is it that it is so difficult to get things right at a grassroots level in the NHS? Look after the talent by giving them the right equipment, the right support and a decent work life balance. It’s as simple as that. The doctors are there, surely, medicine is incredibly competitive to get into so the universities are presumably churning out doctors at the other end, but if the NHS continues to use and abuse the staff as something akin to cannon fodder is it any wonder there is a staffing crisis.
My bet is that if Kay had been supported adequately in the first place and was not already utterly and completely mentally overwhelmed, then, when he faced a heartbreakingly tragic outcome on just another day for him at this particular coal face he would probably still be practising medicine. Like I said before, medicine’s loss.
I love the NHS, I feel it is something to be cherished and nurtured. I have met many fabulous people who work in it and I hope that this book is read as widely as possible to enlighten those, like me, who have tended to take it for granted and for others, ooh I don’t know, perhaps those in management, maybe even in Government, to take a long hard look at what they are doing and what needs to be done, to make the massive improvements that are needed to the working conditions.
An excellent read, I recommend it to everyone not of a nervous disposition.
You have convinced me to give this book a read, Georgia. My favourite tv programmes are all medical dramas, so this should be right up my street!
That’s great news, Anita. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it 😀
As you imply, Georgia, you might need nerves of steel to read this and I’m not sure I have. It might do me serious damage to my state of mind! My sister is a nurse and I’m regularly horrified by the way her NHS trust treats its staff. It seems to look upon them as lesser beings with no human needs – e.g. long hours without access to food and drink, dragged over the coals for daring to be ill more than the 4 days-a-year target. I find it frustratingly ironic that the policies and “duty of care” it, quite rightly, insists its staff apply towards patients are a million miles away from those in place for its own health professionals. Its inflexible, cynical, dehumanising attitude is driving away our desperately needed doctors and nurses. One glimmer of hope is a conversation I had with a nurse in oncology in my own local hospital recently. She was an agency nurse (where many nurses are headed so they have more control over their lives, and who can blame them) and she travelled quite a distance at least once a week to work for this trust as everyone was so nice, and happy in their work. Perhaps all NHS trusts aren’t the same. If there are well-run trust out there, we need that good practice to be spread a lot further afield!
That’s so true, Wendy. I couldn’t believe how inflexible the Trusts were, and considering the rules in place for office staff who have to take regular breaks from their screens and proper lunch hours etc it’s laughable that a place that’s meant to improve health doesn’t seem to have to comply with the same. Let’s hope change comes and that good practice you mention spreads.