Monthly Book Club: ‘This is going to hurt’

This book seems pretty in tune with the mess NHS is right now. The greatest service in the country, and yet the most stretched, badly organised and understaffed life-saving medley of people. But this post is not about what went wrong or how to fix it with the National Health Service, this post is about Adam Kay’s ‘This is going to hurt: Secret diaries of a junior doctor’ book.

My version of the book is a 277-page paperback (I like paperbacks more than hardbacks, in case you wondered), pretty easy to put into a handbag on a commute. The contents of the book are divided into 10 chapters and follow Adam Kay’s career from Junior House Officer to Senior Registrar. The book wraps up with an open letter to the Secretary of State for Health.

What’s in the book

The contents of the book are based on Adam Kay’s journal as a junior doctor – for those of us outside of the health profession, junior doctors are encouraged to keep a daily diary of sorts. The book is therefore not a work of fiction per se but a collection of diary entries, and that’s the most heart-breaking thing about it.

If you are reading it on your commute, please ensure you are seated or at least leaning on something. I have pretty strong nerves (and stomach) but even for me there were a couple of entries which made my knees a little soft. And that’s on top of the roaringly funny, the sob-your-eyes-out sad and the wtf is wrong with people content served throughout the book in a coherent stream of engaging prose. For a cold-hearted fish like myself, it was refreshing to actually feel an emotion towards the junior doctor and his patients, not something I experience often.

The best part

Everything in this book is good. It has been put together in a chronological career order of Adam Kay as a doctor, up to the point where he exits the profession. For me the most striking passage, the best and at the same time the worst, in the book is an entry about one of the consultants recollecting a moment when a heavily pregnant woman literally dropped dead in the hospital ward and the consultant had to cut the baby out right there and then. Find the passage and read what the husband shouted if you haven’t cried in a while. I read this book a while ago and the scene still makes me upset now as I write this review.

But by far the best thing in this book is the respect – respect for people doing a really hard job, in a really hard environment, for not much reward other than satisfaction in actually helping people around them. For a while NHS has now been demonised by the government, especially the junior doctors, and it’s good to see Kay come out and say it as it is.

Who should read this

If you ever used NHS, read it. If you are a politician, read it. If you like a good book, read it. Just saying, it’s a good one for most people. If you are particularly prone to fainting when you hear about medical procedures, read it seated, you’ll be fine.

You can find the copy on Amazon (affiliate link, currently on sale) or in a bookshop near you.

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