Forks in the Road: A Life In and Out of the NHS
Leslie Turnberg, Reviewed by Dr Behrad Baharlo (Specialty trainee, anaesthetics, Imperial School of Anaesthesia)
Charting the life and times of Lord Leslie Turnberg of Cheadle, this candid and eloquently written autobiography gives the reader insight into some of the most defining events affecting not only the medical profession, but also healthcare in the United Kingdom over the last 40 years. To say that the author bore witness to such events would be underestimating the active role he clearly executed not only in postgraduate training but also healthcare policy.
Detailing his life from humble beginnings in Lancashire, the former President of the Royal College of Physicians and of MPS takes the reader through his childhood and formative years with humility, which is a consistent theme throughout the book. He charts his many achievements from qualification then into academia, medical politics, the presidency of the RCP and culminating in his nomination as a peer of the realm.
Notably describing his role in the advent of the university department at Salford Hospital “from scratch” along with its initial shortcomings, as well as comments regarding research (and how not to do it) and the changes in postgraduate medical training of the 1990s, the reader is given a front seat with this account of aspects of the profession that can often seem peculiar if not mysterious. Discussion is made of contemporary issues affecting NHS politics especially pertinent to the New Labour years, and the author is not afraid of casting an opinion or giving fair reflection with the benefit of hindsight.
the reader is given a front seat with this account of aspects of the profession that can often seem peculiar if not mysterious
I found the descriptions around medical training (the eventual establishment of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board) and issues surrounding reform of the NHS of particular interest and found food for thought in aspects concerning financing and NHS interaction with politics and politicians. I couldn’t help feeling that a number of these issues described, including attempts at reform, would have been equally valid when the author commenced his career in the NHS. On matters of NHS reform, financing and political pressures the author clearly had a privileged insight, especially during the term of the Labour government. I would commend the author’s views to anyone interested in such matters.
Reflecting his privileged title, the author visits a number of topics of interest that he has spoken about at the House of Lords, and unashamedly bestows opinions ranging from assisted suicide to anonymity in sperm donation. The importance of the author’s Jewish faith is identifiable and his subsequent interest in Middle Eastern politics results in an attempt at summarising and digesting this complex and otherwise problematic issue with numerous good opinions.
The book concludes with a moving tribute to Daniel, the author’s late son, the impact of his passing being vividly and eloquently described, leaving the reader sharing a sense of melancholy if not shedding tears in sympathy with the author’s tragedy.