This was a bit of a break from my normal reading. I’m not a big one for “real life stories” but in the past I quite enjoyed A Paramedic’s Diary: Life and Death on the Streets by Stuart Gray. So it was a case of reading something that I wasn’t expecting to be particularly taxing, but still enjoyable.
It’s best described as a series of anecdotes. Each ‘chapter’ is minute, being only 3-5 pages long for the most part. So it’s a book that is very easy to pick up, read a little, and put down again; what I would describe as a coffee table book. You may have another phrase for it.
Benjamin Daniels is a pseudonym of a general practitioner (GP) working for the National Health Service (NHS). As such, this is very distinctly British in its setting, approach and tone. It may not translate that well, even to other English-speaking nations, though I would be fascinated to see what an American might make of it.
The book was a big seller in the e-book market, partly due to aggressive pricing, though as an old-fashioned fuddy-duddy, I bought the paperback version. This brings me to my only complaint about the book: it wastes a lot of paper. There are so blank pages in between chapters and white space on the pages that in spite of it being 325 pages long, there is far less by way of text. For example, there is the equivalent of 5 blank pages just in the first 13.
Aside from that though, it is an excellent book which I would highly recommend. In stark contrast to A Paramedic’s Diary, this is told with no bitterness and only mild cynicism. The doctor’s passion for the NHS and backing for a service free at the point of need is clear throughout. He gives us an insight into all the things he wishes he’d been told during his medical training but which he has had to learn through experience. We also get a glimpse of the ethical dilemmas he faces, such as when he convinced that one of his patients is having affair, but can’t tell the patient’s spouse, another patient of his.
Though there are moments of extreme pathos, the book is lit up by the doctor’s sense of humour and the glasses through which he chooses to view the world. He’s willing to admit his mistakes, giving probably the best message that any patient reader ought to bear in mind when they next see their GP: doctors are humans too.