The Doctor Will See You Now by Max Pemberton

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The Doctor Will See You Now by Max Pemberton

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Category: Politics and Society
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: A highly readable if mildly irritating look at the life of a hospital doctor, with some good anecdotes but nothing too squeamish.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: August 2011
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0340919941

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The NHS is one of those things that everyone seems to have an opinion about, and this of course includes those of us who work for said organisation (the world's 3rd largest employer, don'tcha know). Max Pemberton is one of those people: a doctor, though despite what you might assume from the title, not a GP but a hospital medic. This is his third book on the subject of life (and death) within the walls of a hospital, plus the odd excursion to rather misnamed Care Homes, and it's not a bad read.

Set around older people's medicine, the book is a collection of stories from the ward and beyond, seamlessly knitted together into a cohesive story that reads as if it could have happened on consecutive days rather than the more likely weeks or months. The disclaimer states it is a fictionalised version of true events which is understandable, and I do believe it paints a true picture of services I know very well. The book is well structured with ongoing characters and themes (including what was clearly a legitimate cause for disciplinary action – though I may have my NHS manager hat on as I say that). At the same time, with most anecdotes confined to a single chapter, it reads a bit like a diary too and is easy to pick up and put down, or read just a smidge at a time.

The characters seemed reasonably well fleshed out but I thought it telling that by far the most appealing ones - Anthony and Geoff – had only minor roles in the story. What I found a little irritating was the 'holier than thou' attitude that came across at times, combined with the belief that some people should be above the law. You can't have it both ways. You cannot complain about the underfunding of services, or threatened closures, and then in the very next chapter boast about 'fixing' a patient's diagnosis so that he can receive a drug that's not been NICEd for his actual condition (i.e. proved cost effective). Similarly, the situation with the Press was a clear lapse in judgement, but rather than feel ashamed or embarrassed by it, Pemberton has chosen to retell it to share it with everyone out there via the book, and shows no remorse even with hindsight, and even the outcome (a secretary saves my bacon...must be because I'm so awesome and wonderful at this doctoring malarkey) just serves to emphasis the 2-tier world he is happily living in.

I wanted to find a nice way to describe the narrator, but never got further than a succinct, if a little mean, “he's a bit up himself”. Maybe it's the nature of the book, maybe it's the fact that he hones his style in the pages of the Daily Telegraph, but something didn't click for me and I was left somewhat glad that the junior doctors with whom I work seem much more down to earth. The issue with the nursing home is a good example. He is thrilled when his interventions get someone sacked...and then wimps out when he sees the person in question on the street some time later. Not only that, but he starts doubting his initial actions, almost as if he thinks he might have offended some potential Nursing Home managers reading the book, and is trying to sooth the waters.

If you're the type of person who feels they have the equivalent of at least half a medical degree thanks to being glued to Holby City, Casualty and ER for however many seasons, you might like this book. It's certainly easy to read and has some interesting stories in that are probably more true to life than your favourite hospital dramas. But, if you actually work in the NHS you might find it a little off track, playing into general stereotypes of roles and making complaints that, while sure to get the public all riled up and on his side, really don't tell the whole story.

Thanks go to the publishers for supplying a copy of this book.

Our reviewer did enjoy Direct Red by Gabriel Weston - but then she's not an NHS Manager...

Buy The Doctor Will See You Now by Max Pemberton at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Doctor Will See You Now by Max Pemberton at

Buy The Doctor Will See You Now by Max Pemberton at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Doctor Will See You Now by Max Pemberton at


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