Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Book Review of Intensive Care: A GP, A Community and COVID-19

Arpan K. Banerjee
Solihull, United Kingdom


Cover of Intensive Care: A GP, A Community and COVID-19
Intensive Care: A GP, A Community and COVID-19.

Gavin Francis is a family doctor in Scotland who has written several critically-acclaimed books. In his latest work, he chronicles his experience of the COVID-19 pandemic as a family doctor (general practitioner or GP) and the effects of the virus on the rural and urban communities of Scotland.

The devastating impact on severely-ill patients has been widely chronicled through the perspective of hospital teams. In this work, Francis provides an account of the impact on individuals in small communities. The book reads like a novel, with stories of individual patients placed within the timeline of rapidly unfolding events and reactive political decisions in the first wave of disease.

Family doctors faced a shortage of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and had to triage patients and provide remote consultations. This way of practicing was far removed from the usual face-to-face encounters in doctors’ offices, which have been the bedrock of medical practice for years. Many doctors found this difficult. Hospitals stopped seeing patients with non-COVID conditions, which compounded patients’ suffering. The lockdown led to a sense of social isolation for many, especially the elderly, resulting in increased loneliness and bewilderment, notably for those in nursing homes who were not allowed visitors. Mental health became a widespread concern.

Although doctors and staff in primary care were fearful of contracting the virus, selfless dedication was a recurring theme in the narrative. People came together to concentrate on dealing with the disease and helping each other out, analogous to a wartime situation.

Francis describes the gradual easing of the first lockdown and people trying to return to a semblance of normality in the summer months of 2020. This premature relaxing of the lockdown rules unfortunately led to a rise in cases and a further lockdown in winter. Rays of optimism came with the success of the early vaccine trials.

The book concludes at the end of 2020 and therefore does not include the lockdown of 2021 nor the vaccine rollout. It is, however, a wonderful, readable account of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on rural communities through the eyes of a UK family doctor.

Francis starts each chapter with quotes from Daniel Defoe’s famous book A Journal of the Plague Year which chronicled the great plague of London in 1665. Defoe’s observations are as relevant today as they were to the 1665 plague. I particularly liked the first quote: “It is my opinion that the best physic against the plague is to run away from it.”

Intensive Care: A GP, A Community and COVID-19
Gavin Francis
Profile Books Ltd, 2021
ISBN 978 1 78816732 1



ARPAN K. BANERJEEMBBS (LOND), FRCP, FRCR, FBIR, qualified in medicine at St. Thomas’s Hospital Medical School, London. He was a consultant radiologist in Birmingham from 1995-2019. He served on the scientific committee of the Royal College of Radiologists 2012-2016. He was Chairman of the British Society for the History of Radiology from 2012-2017. He is Treasurer of ISHRAD and adviser to radiopaedia. He is the author/co-author of numerous papers and articles on a variety of clinical medical, radiological, and medical historical topics and seven books including Classic Papers in Modern Diagnostic Radiology 2005 and “The History of Radiology” OUP 2013.


Winter 2021  |  Sections  |  Covid-19

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