Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Doctor Will See You Now

                                                         The Doctor Will See You Now:

The highs and lows of my life as an NHS GP

By Amir Khan

Published by Ebury Press, 20th August 2020

Dr Amir Khan is a well-known doctor who has regularly appeared on the TV show GPs Behind Closed Doors and has a large following on Twitter. Characterised by his passion for medicine, in particular the work of a GP, his Twitter feed is also full of photos of his wonderful wildlife garden, conservation information and anecdotes about his beloved mother, Mama Khan. It was, therefore, a  delight to find out about his new book and I read it from cover to cover  with great enjoyment and respect for him and his fellow GPs.

He writes of his patients with compassion, respect and in many cases, deep affection. Although names and circumstances have had to be changed to protect confidentiality, it is obvious from the stories he tells that his surgery takes enormous pains to provide as much continuity of care as possible, especially for patients of all ages with very complex and long-lasting or terminal conditions. 

The never-ending bureaucracy that swamps the NHS has had a major impact on GP workloads and paperwork takes huge amounts of time away from direct patient contact, causing frustration for patients and doctors alike.  One never to be forgotten anecdote was when he was approached in a garden centre by someone with an irritating personal rash who recognised him from TV, dropped his trousers and showed poor Dr Khan his rash in full view of other shoppers, citing his inability to get an appointment with his own GP as the reason. I needed brain bleach after reading that, and Dr Khan now goes to a different garden centre...

No matter how well you think you know the work of a GP, this book will really make you stop and think, and have a better appreciation for their work and the pressures they are under every day. This year has been especially challenging; Dr Khan's surgery was quickly directly involved on a rota system in the care of patients presenting with coronavirus symptoms at their area's Red Zone surgery and he writes movingly of his and his colleagues' anxieties and treating affected elderly patients in nursing homes, many of whom subsequently died from Covid-19. 

A remarkable and enjoyable book - moving, sad and extremely amusing in places.

Many thanks to the publishers and Net Galley for allowing me to read and review this book.

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A Tomb With A View


A Tomb With A View:

The Stories and Glories of Graveyards

By Peter Ross

Published by Headline on 3 September 2020

I love graveyards and churchyards and have done ever since I can remember. I always stop and visit whenever I can, and I am lucky to live five minutes away from a beautiful Norman foundation stone-built church, with a very full churchyard. All of life and death is there, from deaths in infancy to deaths in extreme old age, deaths from accidents, illness, tragedy or war, and the same is true for most burial places.

Peter Ross has produced an absorbing book based on his own extensive experiences of visiting burial places across Britain and Ireland, telling the stories of those buried there, those who study them, those who continue to visit the graveyards and why they do so.  I found huge amounts in these pages to interest me.

One would think there is a certain equality in death, but that is definitely not the case. The poor were usually buried without memorials or only very modest ones, whereas the rich could afford opulent, exotic and extremely costly burials in prestigious London cemeteries with equally expensive memorials erected in due course.  

Whether your interests lie in the Goth culture at Whitby, Commonwealth War Grave Commission's invaluable work,  burials in tiny parish churches, town cemeteries or huge war cemeteries, the burials of the famous and the infamous, the barely-remembered or the never to be forgotten characters of history or stardom, the odds are that Peter Ross has already thought of it and covered it in this remarkable book.

  I particularly liked the story of the gentleman who practised his bagpipes in his local graveyard as there was nowhere else suitable to go during the Coronavirus lock-down, but found myself perturbed by those who thought practising golf in a graveyard was acceptable, safe or in any way a good idea.  The  Rothwell Charnel Chapel was one of my favourites, as was the section about Arnos Vale cemetery in Bristol, where couples choose to get married in the chapel.....

Fascinating stuff!

Many thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for allowing me to read the book in return for an honest and unbiased review.

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Monday, August 03, 2020

The Courage To Care

The Courage To Care: A Call For Compassion

By Christie Watson

Published by Chatto & Windus, 17th September 2020

Ironically, just after I started reading this, I ended up having totally unexpected emergency surgery and a four day stay in the Intensive Care Unit of my local hospital...

I had lots of time to talk to the nursing and the medical staff about what their work was like and how difficult it had been caring for large numbers of very unwell Covid 19 patients and dealing with their families.

This book rings so very true with all that was said to me, and I am full of respect and admiration for those nurses who every day step outside their comfort zones to provide not just nursing care, but also render emotional and mental health care for patients and their families.

We tend to think of nurses as primarily working in hospitals, GP surgeries/clinics and as community nurses, but this book explores the much wider range of work that nurses do, in our prisons, in the armed forces, in schools, in parishes and communities, in specific organisations dealing with disabilities, diseases and illnesses, palliative care, bereavement support and so much more. Christie's own career as a Paediatric Intensive Care nurse means she has seen things most of us never have and never will, thankfully, and had a considerable impact on how she initially worried about her own newborn daughter before settling into an equilibrium where she knew what really, really sick was from her work and when her children were or were not truly ill. 

 Motherhood and the later lengthy adoption process of her son allow us to see her worries about raising mixed-race children and the spectre of racism which exists even in 21st century Britain. Would you have thought that black women are far more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth than white women in this day and age in the UK?

This is a wonderful and thought-provoking book, which I enjoyed even more than her previous book, The Language Of Kindness.



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