Benjamin Daniels is angry. He is frustrated, confused, baffled and, quite frequently, very funny. He is also a GP. These are his confessions.
A woman troubled by pornographic dreams about Tom Jones. An 80-year-old man who can’t remember why he’s come to see the doctor. A woman with a common cold demanding (but not receiving) antibiotics. A man with a sore knee. A young woman who has been trying to conceive for a while but now finds herself pregnant and isn’t sure she wants to go through with it. A 7-year-old boy with ‘tummy aches’ that don’t really exist.
These are his patients.
I read this book as part of my World Book Night book challenge and wasn’t really sure what to expect. This book is written like an autobiography type memoir so if you’re not into biographies then give it a miss although you’d missing a great insight into what it’s like working as a GP for the NHS.
The chapters do jump around, there’s no real flow from one chapter to the next. It is more of a collection of short stories but I did find the doctor’s descriptions to be witty and often funny which felt a little inappropriate.
The stories vary between sad, heart-breaking, poignant, hilarious and just plain gross! (Thinking of Mr Hogden’s maggot infestation problem and the sputum story). But also, some of what you may read in this book may surprise or infuriate you. It’s staggering to learn what some people will go to the doctors for and the expectations they have but also the behind the scenes the hoops our GPs have to jump through.
The one story I still think about and actually re-told to my family was the story of Mrs Briggs. Mrs Briggs had end stage cancer and Dr Daniels was called out to her very late where it was apparent she didn’t have much longer. The doctor was put in the predicament of prescribing her morphine to relieve her pain and make her more comfortable for the hours she had left but was caught between a rock and a hard place knowing that in all likelihood it would end her life quicker. The doctor had to explain this to the family and they just wanted her to be comfortable at the end. It was such a moving story but the worst thing was that he may not have given her the morphine as he was thinking of the Harold Shipman murders. What a situation to be in!
Some people might find it a little uncomfortable as he does tend to make light of some medical conditions which may come across as trivialising or making fun.
Overall I thought it was an honest account of a GP’s daily routine – easy to read but not necessarily easy to stomach and not just because of the medical conditions but due to the political connotations!