Your Life In My Hands: A Junior Doctor’s Story by Rachel Clarke

The Blurb On The Back:

”I am a junior doctor.  It is 4 a.m.  I have run arrest calls, treated life-threatening bleeding, held the hand of a young woman dying of cancer, scuttled down miles of dim corridors wanting to sob with sheer exhaustion, forgotten to eat, forgotten to drink, drawn on every fibre of strength that I possess to keep my patients safe from harm.”

Rachel Clarke’s incredible memoir follows her journey as a junior doctor, offering a glimpse into a life spent between the dissection room and the mortuary, the bedside and the doctors’ mess, exposing stark realities about today’s NHS and what it means to be entrusted with carrying another’s life in your hands.

Rachel was at the forefront of the historic junior doctor strikes in 2016, campaigning against the government and arguing across the press that imposing a contract on young doctors would irrevocably damage the NHS.

This book affects us all.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Rachel Clarke studied PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics) at Oxford and started her working life as a television news producer but with her father and grandfather having both been doctors she felt pulled towards a medical career and decided to retrain as a doctor at the age of 29.

In this memoir Clarke sets out her experiences as a junior doctor training and working in the NHS and most particularly when she found herself on the front line of the junior doctors’ strikes in 2016 but the problem is that there’s little insight here beyond what was replayed through the press and social media, e.g. no details of her meeting with Jeremy Hunt, no discussion about strategy or the relations with the British Medical Association (which is accused of selling out the junior doctors but there’s no information on what – if any – discussions took place between the doctors and BMA representatives).  There’s a similar lack of detail when Clarke discusses experiences with patients or other doctors, e.g. she tells the story of the guilt she felt after she had promised to chat to an elderly patient only to be unable to find two minutes due to being too busy and then chooses to go home without doing so but she doesn’t then say whether she later had a chance to speak to the patient or whether something happened to him to prevent her from doing so.

Clarke is good, however, at setting out the difficulties faced by doctors working in the NHS – the lack of resource, the lack of management support, the political double-dealing and refusal to acknowledge the real problems in funding universal health care.  She’s also eloquent on the stress faced by junior doctors and the sheer drain and exhilaration that comes from the job.  What I would have liked though was some concrete suggestions for how doctors like Clarke would like the health service to be organised and funded and how she’d like to see policy shaped.

Ultimately I thought that this was an interesting but flawed read that provides an insight into life in the NHS without being the searing political indictment that it wants to be.

YOUR LIFE IN MY HANDS was released in the United Kingdom on 13th July 2017.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the ARC of this book.

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