This was a special edition of a book chosen for World Book Night 2014. It wasn’t a book that I had heard of before and in fact the title reminded me of the 1970’s series of books (and films) written by Timothy Lea that used to get passed around under the table at school. (You know the ones….Driving Instructor…Window Cleaner) But no, Robin Askwith’s character hasn’t taken a more intellectual career path. This is really more like Channel 5’s “GP’s Behind Closed Doors” in book form.
Dr Daniels is a pseudonym for someone working in the NHS who, at time of writing, had been a GP for a few years and was actually, all things weighed up, loving it. (Well he was at the time he wrote this book). This was a good choice for a World Book Night pick, considering its remit to get those who do not normally pick up a book to read. It is presented as a series of anecdotes and observations, mostly just a few pages long as Daniels ruminates on his life as a GP. (It is quick to read, accessible and jumps around from amusing to sad, to thought provoking, to disturbing in rapid succession – and there’s an ample helping of bums, tits and willies.) Ultimately, for the book fan, this structure is a little unsettling, you don’t get the flow of the reading process and it’s hard to feel that you’re not speed-reading- an anathema to us bibliophiles.
The variation is quite refreshing, however, in that Daniels does not let us wallow in the darker side of the job for too long. There’s a good balance between the patients he has encountered and his thoughts on the NHS (he’s a big fan). Daniels is very open on what he feels is often the limited role a GP plays in our recovery. He doesn’t feel that he cures that many patients. For most, it is the listening, the taking health concerns seriously that does the trick. Also, referring at the right time to the right person is an essential part of the job. He discusses practice targets, ten minute appointment slots and regularly advises us how to get the most out of our GP by being good patients. It is professional, does not scaremonger and is the exact opposite to reading the grisly health supplements in The Daily Mail. I do rather think, however, that readers of that would be the most likely readers of this.
There are also interesting comments about the likelihood of things we’ve been led to believe are quite common. At time of writing Daniels tells us that he has never as a GP been presented with a case of meningitis nor had to jab something sharp between the ribs to reinflate a deflated lung (this despite it being the first condition he learnt about at medical school- “spontaneous pneumothorax” for those who like the full knowledge). There’s also the continual blurring of social services and government admin which makes the life of the GP tougher and takes away patient appointment time.
I did enjoy my appointment with Dr Daniels. I can’t envisage it being a book that I’d want to keep and read again, but perhaps maybe that is a good thing. Perhaps he’s cured me of my latent hypochondria that will tempt me to read lurid health scares over and over again. Does anyone else have a medical handbook that automatically opens (because of overuse) to worst possible case scenarios?
Confessions Of A GP was published by the Friday Project in 2012. I read the 2014 World Book Night edition with additional extras.