Author Adam Kay (Image: NC)
Former doctor Adam Kay’s new book, Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas, recalls a chap who “wrapped his entire body in tinfoil to go to a fancy dress party as a turkey and desiccated himself to the human equivalent of a Ryvita”. For the less printable side-effects of the intimate use of Mars Bar wrappers, peanut butter and steroid cream, see the book. Kay’s first best-seller This Is Going To Hurt, subtitled Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor, sold an incredible 1.5million copies and has been commissioned as a BBC TV series.
But he hates the fact that people recognise him because of its success.
“I don’t love being on telly,” he says. “I don’t want to be famous – that’s the worst thing about it.”
He wrote the book as “a love letter to the NHS – and the NHS is rightly loved,” he says. “It was a bit of a confidence trick. People like a funny book and I had a point to make. But people don’t like to be told what to think, they want to come to their own conclusions.”
His honest account of 97-hour working weeks and life and death decisions is peppered with scalpel-sharp humour and laugh-out-loud stories; the Kinder egg one is not for the faint-hearted.
Several involve the “Eiffel Syndrome” – patients claiming “I fell, doctor! I fell!” to explain foreign objects lodged in their bodies.
Concerned readers inundated then Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt with copies.
The two met, briefly, but “no minds were changed,” says Adam.
Current Health Secretary Matt Hancock was more receptive.
Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas is out now (Image: NC)
“He asked to meet within a week of him getting the job. It was productive. I focused on the mental well-being of staff, making sure people have the support network.”
Soon after, Mr Hancock announced the Practitioner Health Programme and improved mental health training in the profession, name-checking Adam’s book.
It was, says Kay, “one of my proudest moments; the single best thing that’s happened...knowing I might have made a tangible difference.”
Adam, now 39, continues: “They don’t teach you how to deal with the bad things at medical school. A lot of doctors turn to drink and drugs. One doctor every three weeks takes their own life.
“We’re not looking after our own. We’re putting unrealistic expectations on people and there’s a culture of not speaking about it. I thought I was the only doctor who’d ever cried in a locker room.”
Keeping a diary was Adam’s way of staying sane until he quit nine seven ago.
The 2016 junior doctors strike was the accidental catalyst for Kay’s writing career.
“They were accused of being greedy,” he says, “but you’d have to be insane to go into medicine to make money. The hospital parking meter earns more than you do.”
After they lost, he decided to read out his diaries at the Edinburgh festival “and reach 3,000 people who might feel differently. I wanted to