Strength in Numbers dedicated to my late mother Kay

The best thing about being a doctor is sharing the secrets of the NHS system – by Ellie May, consultant anaesthetist

I see where the health service fails patients and I want to apologise for it

There are so many excellent aspects of being a doctor you may think it difficult to pick the best one. The good news is I have the answer. The bad news is, it’s not what you think.

First, eliminate the sensible reasons for embarking upon a vocation in medicine, the benefits that parents point out: a job for life, employee benefits such as sick pay and maternity leave, and a public sector pension. Next, disregard obvious reasons, stated by eager applicants during their interview for medical school. Helping people, making a difference and job satisfaction. Leaving aside the irreverent: nudity, black humour and in-jokes are the domain of sniggering, usually male junior doctors. It can be amusing but is far from the best thing.

No, the best thing about being a doctor in the NHS today is having insider knowledge. Knowing the weak points in the system. Being able to identify where systems break down and having the know how, ability and confidence to intervene. Being able to remedy problems in a timely manner, averting disaster or just gently steering the plan back on course is something I am eternally grateful I can do. Not just for me but also for my friends and family.

Click on the link to read more


I know how best to access a busy consultant and how to push the receptionist at the GP surgery for an appointment. Photograph: Thomas Tolstrup/Getty Images

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