Book review: Confessions of a GP by Dr Benjamin Daniels
There’s one thing you should never ask your doctor when you turn up for an appointment... ‘What’s up, Doc?’
And Dr Benjamin Daniels should know... he’s been asked it many, many times and it never fails to make his hackles rise!
So what thoughts are going through a GP’s mind as he sits impassively in his surgery while his patients regale him with not just their ailments but also their hopes, their fears and sometimes their most intimate secrets.
Hiding his true identity behind a very necessary nom-de-plume, Daniels reveals just some of the stories from his work as an NHS doctor and they are not for the squeamish, the faint-hearted or the prudish.
There’s a flirtatious transvestite who likes to visit the doctor for a bit of a gossip, a middle-aged woman who wants to share her pornographic dreams about Tom Jones and a schizophrenic who dresses from head to toe in camouflage gear, including a balaclava.
Daniels’ experiences in the front line of the NHS are moving, sad, funny and entertaining. They are also an insight into the targets, the paperwork, the pressures and the critical decision-making that are all part of a GP’s daily routine.
Dealing with pain, domestic violence, addiction, depression, self-harming and ‘a fairly big helping of broad-spectrum misery’ are the order of the day in many inner city practices.
But to alleviate this catalogue of suffering, a GP will also witness dark humour, light-hearted exchanges and incidents that are totally bizarre.
Take 93-year-old patient Ethel who visits Dr Daniels twice a week and likes to pull up her chair and stroke his leg during consultations, and salesman Gary who wanted to covertly give his wife antibiotics in case she caught a sexually transmitted disease from him and discovered he had been unfaithful.
But Confessions of a GP is not just a succession of amusing anecdotes. Daniels also gives a level-headed and fascinating insight into subjects like coping with death, the over-diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children to the power of drug reps, the misuse of medical jargon, the realities of obesity and the prescribing of ‘happy pills’.
Dr Daniels’ true tales speak volumes about the challenges a doctor must face on a daily basis not just to his medical skills but to his own emotions and personal beliefs.
Having a broad mind and a good sense of humour would seem to help, and always remember that there’s not much a doctor hasn’t seen or heard before.
So if you really want to attract his attention, here are a few pointers – have a rare condition that intrigues him, make him laugh or (perhaps best of all) present him with a truly embarrassing problem that will absolutely make his day!
(Avon, paperback, £7.99)