Wednesday, 20 June 2018


Hospitals and consulting rooms are not my favourite places, so I probably wouldn't have picked up 'This Is Going To Hurt' by Adam Kay, if my sister-in-law hadn't recommended it. Well, let me now spread the word: it's an extraordinarily funny account of his 6 years as a junior doctor. I finished it in a hospital waiting room: I was the only person there crying with laughter; the other patients probably thought I'd missed my way to Psychiatry. It is also deeply sad, and it makes you want to go out and buy champagne and flowers for every last person who's ever worked in our beleaguered health service.

We've all spent dreary hours sitting in crowded waiting-rooms (often meant for emergencies but full of people who couldn't get a doctor's appointment for 3 weeks and didn't know what else to do) and I've met the odd nurse or doctor who did worry me: top of the list the elderly surgeon who lent over me just as drowsiness was taking hold and said, Remind me - which breast was it? I've never been sure whether I lost consciousness at that point because of the anaesthetic or from terror. Anyway, the point is that they are few and far between, and when you think what a horrible experience a few hours in a hospital can be, it makes you wonder how the staff get through it, day after day after day. And almost always with kindness, courtesy, competence and good humour, despite their inhuman workloads, terrifying responsibility, poor pay and bizarre requirements. I met a breast-feeding assistant the other day who has to schlep around London carrying a baby-sized doll and a knitted breast.

το κραση - wine
In order to avoid doctors in general, Professor Gloom and I started a new health regime a few months ago. It's very simple: I haul him out of bed and route march him round Holywood for half an hour before breakfast every day except Saturday. He's allowed Saturday off because he plays golf, which he insists is exercise. At first he groaned and cursed and had to be stopped from sloping off into coffee shops, but slowly the muttering has died away - and been replaced with the recitation of Greek verbs. This is because we are learning Greek in order to jog our ageing brain cells and communicate with Greek relatives. To increase our vocabulary we also have labels stuck to various household objects.

The casual visitor could be  forgiven for thinking it was a home for Greek dementia sufferers.

η καρεκλα and το τραπεζι - where you sit to have your κραση

Adam Kay is no longer a doctor, which is a terrible loss to medicine: that mix of black, skewering humour and human empathy is exactly what I'd like to meet next time I end up in A&E, or wherever.  The NHS is a wonderful institution but it's on its knees and so are its staff. We need to pay more tax for it, take better care of our own health, and value our doctors, nurses and health care workers a great deal more than we do. And if you don't believe me, read "This Is Going To Hurt'.

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