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Book review: Staying Alive, by Dr Phil Hammond

Given that the government seems hell bent on destroying the morale of the health care workforce, this book that sets out to save the NHS couldn’t have come at a better time.

Aimed at patient education – starting off with a fascinating chapter on the principles, purpose and practicalities of our current NHS – author Phil Hammond talks of patient self awareness and the responsibility of us all to stay well and ensure the adequacy of our own NHS care. Touching on screening, CLANGERS (advance warning, Hammond does like his acronyms!) and everyday health tips for better physical and mental health he looks at ways to maximise the system we have got.

Full of fascinating facts and statistics, with in-depth sections on getting the right care and the right death for you, he goes all out to teach us all how to be better patients and users of our precious free healthcare system. Every point is supported with heartwarming and sometimes sobering real patient tales that provide insight into illness, health, disease and death.

Sharing his experiences of working at the NHS’s core intermingled with stories of patient experience, Dr Hammond’s passion, knowledge and enthusiasm comes across in bounds together with his wisdom and expertise. He presents some sound and logical ideas, including sections on the right way to use GP services, getting the most from the consultation, diagnostic errors and bias, and prescribing and private care.

Through the book he aims to be the patients’ advocate. Educating, informing, empowering. But will the right patients read it? And is it ultimately possible to keep the NHS as we know it alive?

This book is an education and without doubt an interesting read. But at the end I was left asking: is there still time for it to do some good?


Dr Kate Culley is a GP in Eastbourne