‘Your Life in My Hands’ by Rachel Clarke

In the wake of the junior doctor strikes last year, Dr Clarke recently published her book ‘Your Life in My Hands’. which is a memoir describing the work being done on the NHS frontline, on a general and personal level, in order to shed light upon the realities of the medical field and how it differs from what politicians and the media are portraying.

One of the main reasons I chose to pick up this book was so that I can gain a better understanding of the situation regarding the junior doctor contract and the strikes. Although every form of media had the issue covered, I felt that after reading so many different articles and posts about the strikes at the time, I was confused as to how I felt about the whole thing and what was really happening. Therefore, in making the decision to read this book, I can gladly say that I have been able to gain a much more rounded overview of the situation at hand. As a pivotal time in history, which will inevitably determine where medicine in the UK will be heading in the next couple of years, and as an individual who will soon be venturing into the field, I feel this was a necessary step in order to familiarise and guard myself with the facts.

Within the book, Dr Clarke has done a fantastic job of recounting her experiences in a very honest way. Through her style of writing, I felt that I could see that her only aim was to be truthful to her audience, and coming from someone who works in the forefront of the service, it only makes her memoir that much more meaningful. It definitely highlights, and has taught me, that you have to work in the NHS to really understand what needs to be done to improve it. This enhances the complexity of the service and its finances. Therefore, although the government insists that they are doing all they can, personally I feel that if Dr Clarke, along with many other doctors out there, are all publishing entire books stressing that the service and its resources are really being stretched, then this is a cause for concern that really needs addressing.

The humanity of a conversation has become a luxury your conditions of work deny

I think this quote perfectly sums up the climate of the situation with the NHS. When I first came across this statement, it made me realise how accurate Dr Clarke is. It made me think about every volunteering or shadowing hospital experience I have had and in the process it made me realise that not once could I recall ever seeing a doctor having a conversation with a patient about anything else but their diagnosis and treatment. I can understand that ultimately this is the role of the doctor, to be able to treat the ill, but this is not the only thing I aspire to do. In the process of treating my patient, I want to actually get to know my patient. I do not want to be a part of a service which treats individuals mechanically, as though they are items on a conveyor belt, that need to be kept moving in order to avoid a systemic failure. But unfortunately, in light of the current events, this is where medicine is at today.

Just recently I came across a BMA article with the following title “First-rate health service, third-rate funding” (https://www.bma.org.uk/connecting-doctors/b/the-bma-blog/posts/first-rate-health-service-third-rate-funding) In summary, as the name suggests, the article talks about how the UK is the first in the world to be able to deliver a safe, affordable and fair service to its population however in terms of funding it ranks as one of the lowest in the world. Understandably as we live in a world whereby an individual’s personal opinion is always approached with scepticism, I can see why a doctor’s cry for help may not be taken too seriously. However, when the statistics are published through an independent organisation, and it correlates with what a whole body of professionals are fighting so strongly for, then surely alarm bells need to go off at this point. Yet regardless of the numbers and the facts provided which justify the need for more funds, we still find that we ask ourselves, why is nothing being done?

From the moment I set foot inside my medical school, I was overawed by the potential of medicine – the extraordinary capacity of the human body to endure and survive serious illnesses, of doctors and scientists to discover new cures and above all of the human spirit to rise above adversity with the kind of dignity and strength at which so often I could only marvel’

This is definitely the stage at which I am at now. Before starting medical school, I was aware of what medicine had to offer but truthfully I did not realise its full potential until upon the completion of my first year. When reflecting on how much I had learnt and how much I have still yet to learn about the human body, the treatments and my role as a doctor in all of it too, it is mind-blowing. Now that I think about it, the above quote would have been a fantastic response to a medical school interviewer’s favourite question “Why Medicine?’.

Above all, it certainly encapsulates the beauty of medicine and some of the reasons as to why so many individuals choose to become doctors. The role of a doctor is all about giving to your patients, whether that is in the form of your knowledge, time or care. But in the system that our doctors are having to work in today, as Dr Clarke puts it, after providing solace of this kind, how much can it end up taking from a person? There is only so much we can all give without the exhaustion hitting us and before our morale runs low. Something needs to be done.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *