Last week I chanced upon a book in the airport and from a quick glance, and a spy of some very dry humour, I thought it was something right on my level.

I am not normally one to go for books on best seller lists, as I have repeatedly been disappointed by them in the past. But this was an exception.

The book is This Is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay. I cannot say enough how everybody should read this book. Especially the politicians trying to penalise junior doctors and sell off the NHS or for anyone debating a career in medicine. And we should all realise how lucky we are.

This book is frank, hilarious, frightening, melancholy and heartbreaking in equal measures. There is a very serious message about overworking, close calls, ignorance and the future realities.

There were a few key learnings, and questions, for me on finishing this book.


1. How bloody stupid are the British public?

Okay, we know this. BUT, REALLY?

There is a new layer of stupidity that I just cannot fathom. I don’t want to give anything away for those who have not read this book yet, but the stories about de-gloving (seriously DO NOT Google this), the result of a 70 year old with a KFC Chicken bucket, and the many many idiots who have numerous items stuck in various orifices certainly stick in the mind.

And the worrying thing is that these are not one-offs. In the 12 or so years the book spans there are so so many examples, and this is just one doctor. Unless he was freakishly unlucky, this is happening too much. The amount of wasted resource and money fixing these absolute degenerates is ridiculous. Though the doctors get funny stories out of it, they must get frustrated having to treat these imbeciles when there are people in real need of help. I do wonder if society would be so stupid if we had to pay for our treatment… “Good news sir, we got the remote control out of your butt, here is your bill for £3000”.

I think not.


2. NHS staff are absolute heroes.

Again, we know this. But this book doesn’t half make this hit home. They are leaving their own weddings early to get back to shifts, abandoning their honeymoons, they are missing their childrens’ birthdays, family funerals and more. How is it a system that cannot allow a young professional to take a few days off for their wedding? Why the hell can we not plan around that? (Answer is in point 4 I suppose).

We know doctors work long hours, but in this book it is put in stark perspective. Working four days straight and then having to make life and death decisions is never going to end well. They should not be put in that situation. And the book does end with a truly heartbreaking situation in which Kay should never have been placed.


3. Doctors are broke

Not just in the physical sense, but in the monetary sense. It is a myth that doctors are well paid. In fact, Kay mentions that he is paid more than the serving staff in McDonalds, but less than the shift supervisor. Only the highest consultants earn decent money, and that is after 6 years training plus about 8 years working their way up. Then the politicians tried screwing them over,. For the responsibility, knowledge, training and stress, this is just not right.


4. Decent doctors are leaving in droves

Worringly, the most fantastic professionals are leaving the NHS as they have had enough. The hours, the treatment, the impact on their personal life. It is too much. I do not judge any of them for giving up. I left teaching for similar reasons, though at least I didn’t have the life and death decisions to contend with alongside everything else. Just screeching, drunk teenagers. Which is worse? Hmmm.


5. Despite what they deal with daily, doctors not offered counselling, therapy or other support?

In the devastating end to the book, Kay mentions that after the events he was never offered any support, but desperately needed it. We seem to presume that our doctors don’t get ill, depressed, or suffer any other maladies. In reality, they are just as susceptible as the rest of us, if not more so given how they are driving themselves into the ground.

As someone with a long-term health issue, it is terrifying to think where we could end up. We think the current situation and wait lists are ridiculous, it could easily quadruple, and soon.


6. We put too much faith in the info we get from medical dramas.

I love a good medical drama – think Greys Anatomy, ER, House and the like – but they do give us a very distorted perception of life as a medic. I’m not daft, I know they are not real life, but they do sway the nation’s perspective quite highly and portray it as much more glamorous that it actually is. The magnificent pay, the holidays, the drama, the affairs, the beautifully coiffed hair at all hours of the day, the miraculous rescuing of patients from the brink whilst not breaking a sweat. And Dr McSteamy dream-boating around. <sigh. Damn you Grey’s for writing him out>.

It’s probably a good job the average doctor doesn’t look like Eric Dane or we’d be at the doctors daily.


I am not sure here whether I wrote this with the intention of advocating the book, the NHS and it’s staff, or both. (Or McSteamy).

I have certainly had my fair share of woes with the NHS – misdiagnoses, lost records, 8 hour waits in A&E (only to give up and go back the next day), clinicians with the bedside manner of Dracula, etc. But given how much I have to interact with medical people and places, the percentage is probably pretty average and where it mattered they have pulled through. And I have also had some remarkable staff that have restored my faith in the system and humanity. It is scary to think if I had had to pay for every broken toe, knackered ankle (thanks netball!), back injection, MRI and blood test I would certainly be in huge amounts of debt for life.

Finally, I suggest you do not read this on a plane, if you don’t want to be waking up your snoozing neighbour with guffaws, groans of grossed out disbelief, and snorts of laughter.

Please read the book.

​Available from all good outlets (and make sure it is a version that has the added chapters at the end).


Write 52: Week 18
​Theme: A few of my favourite things