Intended for healthcare professionals

Career Focus

Public speaking

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 07 February 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:s60
  1. Nicola Sharp

“Janet, you have to help me.” Douglas Millstone rushed into the mess, tripped over the coffee table, and landed on a leftover pizza.

“Are you hurt? What's happened?” Janet helped Douglas up.

“I want you to do something for me. It's an emergency.” Douglas ran his fingers through his hair.

“Of course I will. Which ward?” Janet picked up her stethoscope.

“Not now. Tomorrow morning,” said Douglas.

“There's going to be an emergency tomorrow morning?”

“It's the new house officers.”

“But what's the emergency?”

“I have to prepare a talk for their induction.”

“So you want me to talk to them for you?”

“Thank you so much.”



“No, I will not do your talk for you.”

“But please.”

“Douglas, every time life gets difficult you run away.”

“Not every time.”

“Douglas, the main reason I won't go out with you again is that when the going gets tough, Douglas Millstone gets going.”

“I know when I'm not wanted.”

“There you go. Running off again.”

* * *

“What are you doing, Martha?” David Millstone appeared at the bedroom window, wearing striped pyjamas.

Martha put two bottles of whisky in the basket of her pushbike. “I'm off to work.”

“It's six o'clock in the morning,” said David.

“The early bird catches the worm.” Martha rang the bell on her bicycle.

“You can't go back to work yet.”

“I like to get an early start. Surgeons work hard.”

“You can't go back to work today.”

“Hubert said I could.”

“I'm medical director, and I haven't made the necessary preparations.”

“I don't want a red carpet, and I'm bringing my own whisky.”

“I need to make other arrangements.”

“I'll just get on as usual. Put patients first.”

“Martha, you can't return to work today. Anyway, you have an appointment with your solicitor at eleven o'clock.”

“I don't need a solicitor.”

“Martha, you're due in court in three weeks.”

“I was in the right. I was driving to an emergency.”

“Martha, do we have to go over this now? Please come back to bed.”

* * *

“Who wants to work at Murkton Moor Hospital?” Buster, the new surgical house officer, asked the other house officers. They shook their heads.

“We've been waiting an hour and a half for our induction. I propose we go to the pub,” said Buster.

“Don't you think we should wait another ten minutes? The human resources director said someone would come soon,” said Alice, new medical house officer.

“Lesson number one: keep managers and consultants in their place.”

“Perhaps they're busy working,” suggested Alice.

“Lesson number two: use your own initiative. We'll go to the pub.”

“To the pub,” said Dinesh, surgical house officer.

Douglas Millstone walked in, short of breath. “I'm so sorry I'm late.”

“We're off to the pub,” said Buster.

“Good idea,” said Douglas. “I'll join you.”

“Are you not here to give us our induction?” asked Alice.

“I suppose so,” said Douglas. “I did promise Dad that I would.”

“I recognise you now,” said Buster. “You're the one who murdered that staff grade doctor.”

“No I didn't murder him. No one did.”

“You went AWOL while you were on call,” said Buster.

“Couldn't stand the stress?” said Dinesh.

“Do you want to know about this hospital?” said Douglas.

“Probably not. We're all thinking of leaving,” said Buster. “None of us asked to be placed here.”

“It's the worst hospital in England, isn't it?” asked Dinesh.

“Why would anyone want to work at Murkton Moor Hospital?” asked Buster.

“Good question,” said Douglas.

“What's the answer?”

“I'm thinking.”

“Don't strain yourself.”

Douglas pulled at his fringe. “I know,” he said, “there's Gladys.”

“Is she the topless model?”

“There is no topless model here,” said Douglas. “Gladys is the cook.”

“So what.”

“This may be the worst hospital in England, but Gladys is the best cook.”


“The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Today it's sticky toffee pudding. Tomorrow it's gooey chocolate pudding.”

“We want more than pudding.”

“There's the curries. Best this side of Rusholme. And the Cumberland sausage and black pudding and the—”

The characters this week

Douglas Millstone—medical house officer, previously went AWOL while on call, returning nine months later

Janet—a GP trainee, Douglas's ex-girlfriend

Martha Millstone—consultant surgeon, waiting to return to work from gardening leave, also due to appear in court, charged with driving while banned for drink driving

David Millstone—Martha's husband, the medical director

Hubert—recently reappointed as chief executive

James Fatterley—a businessman and the ex-chief executive

Buster—a new surgical house officer

Alice—a new medical house officer

Dinesh—a new surgical house officer

Gladys—the hospital cook

“We can't do a job just for the food,” said Dinesh.

“Well, then there's the patients. Murkton Moor is old-fashioned. There's no Starbucks, no café bars, no nightlife.”

“That's no good.”

“The patients are old-fashioned too.”

“A load of geriatrics.”

“They're old-fashioned people. They treat you with respect. They say please and thank you, doctor; they don't look up their illnesses on the internet; and they don't assault you.”

“That sounds okay,” said Dinesh.

“The other reason is the accommodation. There are wonderful views over Murkton Moor down to the reservoir.”

“That sounds nice,” said Alice.

“So if you all come with me, we'll go for a tour of the accommodation, then I'll take you to meet Gladys for the best sticky toffee pudding in the world.”

At the door Douglas found Janet sitting next to James Fatterley.

“Well done.” Janet kissed him on the cheek and left.

“What are you doing here?” Douglas asked James.

“Never you mind. I heard your talk and I was interested.”

“You're only interested in yourself.”

“An excellent speech. Wonderful how you marketed the hospital. Have you ever considered a career in marketing?”


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