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Independents' Day

Dr Donovan’s Bequest

A review of Michael O’Donnell's book of anecdotes on general practice in the 1950s and 60s.

A review of Michael O'Donnell's book of anecdotes on general practice in the 1950s and 60s.

This book records a series of anecdotes from the ‘Slagthorpe Archive'; snippets about general practice in the 1950s and 1960s. They portray a post-war world of class discrimination where private patients were prized commodities.

Consultants are ‘Great Men' who perform rituals to impress the patients and denigrate the second-class citizens known as general practitioners.

The stories come across as a humorous take on The Citadel and Dr Finlay's Case Book. For my taste they are too contrived and therefore difficult to read.

The text is irritatingly peppered with capitals. There is humour there but the author tries so hard that I found it difficult to persevere through his heavy style to find the gems.

Hidden within the stories though are some jewels. I loved the ‘Great man' who managed to console his overweight patient that her obesity was through no fault of her own but due to being ‘the only woman in the world with a yard of extra colon.'

Perhaps we would get higher scores on our patient surveys if we copied Egbert Slag who enticed patients to the surgery (and profited) with a boating lake, stethoscope museum and; anticipating reality TV, live tours of the waiting room and minor surgery procedures.

One has to admire the postgraduate tutor who transformed the local postgraduate centre into a thriving self-funding organisation with a bar, restaurant, cinema and sports centre.

One more musing proposes a total revamp of the NHS; each patient would be given a proportion of the money earmarked for his/ her care to dispense as gratuities during the hospital stay.

I prefer the style of the modern ‘rag mag humourists'.

Rating: 1/5

Dr Clare Etherington

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