A late review, The Secret GP by Max Skittle

If you have wanted a window into what a GP sees each day in their clinic, this book brings a fresh take into the weird and wonderful that doctors sit opposite every day.

Throughout the course of a year, we follow GP, Max Skittle who brings you on the unexpected journey of what life in surgery is like. From split urine bottles, joys of parenthood, and imposter syndrome – we can see it from a doctor’s perspective.

I am disappointed. For a book that boasts about an inside scoop on a professional that prides itself on patient confidentiality, it struggles to break out into any real depth. We tend to focus on the stresses of being a doctor, and how to balance it with newfound parenthood. Not exactly the weird and wonderful insight to what people visit their GP about.

“I’ll always see it as a privilege to be entrusted with the responsibility to help you.”

I hoped this would be an extension of Adam Kay’s ‘This is Going to Hurt’. A GP’s take on just how brilliant our NHS is, but how overworked and underappreciated it is. I wanted dark humour, eye-opening salacious experiences of a GP. Maybe a differing take on life as a doctor? Instead, I feel like this book is in a chokehold of patient confidentiality and emboldened sense to be ‘liked’ by a reader.

It substitutes the witty one-liners, interesting anecdotes, and realities of the profession that we’ve seen from his contemporaries. It seems compromised, to avoid a lawsuit, by summarising each appointment. A fleeting glimpse into the ‘window’ of a patient’s life. The ‘why’ and ‘what’ they are there for, there’s no real depth despite some of the subject matters it touches upon – such as domestic abuse, and body image issues in teenagers; issues I wish Dr. Skittle had provided more depth for as a GP.

Instead of the patient care and depth I signed up for, we’re treated to glimpses of home/work-life balance; and the struggles of becoming a first-time parent. While it’s endearing to hear him care for his young family, it feels like is what we are given this as an off-brand substitute. A distraction so we don’t focus on the detail we’re desperately missing in the patient consultations; and one that is not effective.

“I wanted to lift the lid on the job and show its Instagram-free unfiltered realities, along with how the mechanics of a surgery really works.”

This distraction from the lack of depth in this book becomes the shiny veneer in which we read this book. A forced, HR approved, book. It has the potential to match Kay on his gritty take of life in the NHS had it not been so stifled by its ethical oaths. Had this been from a retired GP, I think we’d have had the depth and focus on the patients and duty of care that this book promised, and failed, to deliver.

Aside from this walking tour of a GP surgery, another issue that gnaws at me in this book is the fatphobia we witness. Skittle mentions how disgusted he is to touch an overweight patient’s stomach, as well as imagining a patient being craned out of their house with some morbid fascination. He crosses the line between dark humour and shaming people for their lifestyle choices; particularly, when you consider he has, more than likely, examined many bodily fluids.

To me, this book misses the mark on many levels. It fails to provide any detail or depth to patients and their issues, some of which are deeply in need of a platform to raise awareness. Skittle could have provided a voice to that, the weight of a GP’s voice to those who might need to hear it. He touches upon how young girls shouldn’t be concerned about body image, and yet makes barbed comments about those who are overweight. It seems hypocritical.

Overall, I feel like it was stifled by trying to protect himself from getting sued, rather than focusing on the journey a person goes on that lands them sitting opposite him. We needed more detail on the issues he sees and the care that goes into managing them – rather than a judgmental GP who just wants to clock off like the rest of us.

Next patient please!

~ Emily

My rating: 3/5 stars

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