Joking apartBMJ 2008; 337 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a2719 (Published 09 December 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2719
- Richard Smith, director, Ovations Chronic Disease Initiative, and former editor, BMJ
Reading a book that is based on 17 years of Phil Hammond’s Private Eye columns on the NHS was like drowning: my past flashed before my eyes. The Bristol scandal, London’s health system “near collapse” (1992), junior doctors overworked then underworked, butcher gynaecologists (a selection to choose among), duplicitous politicians, poor stroke services (1998), Stalinism, arrogant surgeons, secretive royal colleges, and a thousand clinical failures—all of NHS life is here, and in many ways it makes a much more raw, real, and satisfying read than the largely self congratulatory material that accumulated around the NHS’s 60th anniversary earlier this year. The book is also much more clinical than those largely policy related histories.
It tells the story not just of the NHS but of Hammond himself. Graduating from medical school in the late 1980s, he became a national figure in August 1990 when he and Tony Gardener, “two tired and surly junior doctors,” went to the Edinburgh fringe festival to put on a comedy show that would “publicise our working conditions …