Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Of coffee and Hob Nobs.

So, I managed to keep this blog entirely free from politics all through the election... admittedly by the simple expedient of failing to comment on anything at all for the duration, and all through the tawdry aftermath for good measure. In all honesty things are a bit grim in Ambridge right now, so there’s not been a whole lot worth sharing, and really no time for sharing it all with you poor long suffering souls.

So colour me astonished when I received, through the comments of this shambling mess of a “journal”, a request from a publisher to review a book about my craft, written by an esteemed colleague known to probably nearly the entirety of the UK GP community. Consider the foregoing a declaration of interest. What follows is not exactly a paid endorsement, but I did receive, and am thoroughly grateful for, a copy of the said volume. All that said, I took this assignment with more than a little trepidation.

The thing is the author, one Dr Tony Copperfield (actually a collaboration of two practising GPs) is well known for his bi-weekly column on the back page of our Trade Paper “Pulse” where his worldly wise musings on the absurdities of the job, the relentless push for “evidence based medicine”, the inanities of the Contract, the Departmental Diktats and the lunacies of the PCTs (our immediate managers) never fail to raise a wry smile and a sardonic chuckle. But to let him loose on an unsuspecting public—would this be wise? I had my doubts.

I suppose at this point I should mention the book in question, “Sick Notes. True stories from the front lines of medicine.” It’s published by Monday Books and you can find it here.

Having received and devoured my copy I’m happy to say that this collection of Dr Copperfield’s writings strikes just the right note. The wit and the sardony (I know it’s not a proper word but it definitely should be) are still there, but leavened with stories of old friends and worthy adversaries in the form of Airfix Man (I defy you to read this snippet without at least the beginnings of a lump in the throat) Mr Nickleby (guess where Dr C goes for many of his pseudonyms), and Rebecca Bagnet, along with snipes at the political dimensions of health care, the PCT, the profusion of forms and hoops and brain dead rituals that seem solely intended to stop us doing the job. Along the way you will discover the central role of coffee and Hob Nobs to the functioning of any well regulated family practice and you’ll learn a lot about how UK General Practice operates... er, consults.

If you read this book you’ll discover why your GP adopts that strange far away look when you take him or her a little list, or begin with “I don’t see you often...” or end with “While I’m here....” . Dr C is indeed divulging some trade secrets, but he’s giving you a user’s guide to your GP into the bargain. Or at least he is if you live in this sceptered isle. Because Dr C practices here in Dear Old Blighty his descriptions of our working environment and the challenges it presents are very time and place specific, but the stories he tells of his patients and their woes are universal. And though the style is tongue in cheek the book is billed as a work of non fiction, and so it is. Not all of the events portrayed may have happened exactly as presented, but however much they stretch the credibility, believe me when I tell they happened, and they’ve almost certainly happened to your GP too. (I would have dearly loved to have been at the meeting where he and his partner presented the PCT with their newly “imagineered” Universal Referral Form.)

I suspect this book will be regarded as something of a niche market publication, but I hope it manages a wider circulation, and if I have one wish it is to make it compulsory reading for all PCT managers and Chief Executives. Indeed I’m thinking of passing my copy on to our own Beloved Leader, assuming it’s still in a fit state when my partners have done with it. I get the feeling there is a real gulf of understanding between our two disciplines, and I think Tony Copperfield might have give us a means of bridging the divide. So if you’re an NHS administrator, a politician in or aiming for the Health Department, or if you’re remotely interested in the workings of our shared profession, you owe it to yourself to read this book.

And the next time you’re in the surgery why not take along a packet of Hob Nobs for the troops? Tell them Tony sent you.

They’ll understand.


News from Monday Books said...

Thanks Dr Jest, much appreciated!

Doctor Jest said...

NfMB-- My pleasure, and thank you very much for the book.