Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Book review: How the NHS Coped with COVID-19

Arpan K. Banerjee
Solihull, United Kingdom

Cover of How the NHS Coped with COVID-19 by Ellen Welch.

This work is a timely and important contribution to the literature on the COVID-19 pandemic, which has wreaked havoc worldwide. Following the cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown cause in Wuhan, China at the end of 2019, things would never be the same again.

In this book, the author has set out to chronicle the main events that affected the population of the United Kingdom and how the government and other authorities responded to the considerable challenges posed by this pandemic. Although primarily concerned with events in the United Kingdom, the timeline includes similar events that were occurring simultaneously in other countries and compares reactions and responses. The book is a fine chronicle of how the National Health Service in the United Kingdom rose to the challenge and coped with this pandemic crisis.

In addition to the useful timeline of events, the analysis of political and medical decisions (both good and bad, in retrospect) provide the reader with much food for thought. A particularly useful and unique aspect of the book is the inclusion of personal experiences from frontline staff who were dealing with the pandemic in primary care, hospital, and care home settings. This feature adds a human touch and chronicles the difficulties, experiences, and dedication of these healthcare workers. Sketches and portraits of healthcare professionals who lost their lives in the pandemic are also included.

The stories of dedicated professionals on ambulances, in emergency departments, on the wards in hospitals, in general practice clinics, nursing homes, and intensive care units sometimes make for somber reading. The book also describes the considerable mental health issues resulting from social isolation and coping with a large number of deaths, often in young people. The considerable economic damage resulting from the pandemic contributed further to anxieties experienced by the population.

The book is well laid out, includes black-and-white illustrations, and provides references for further reading for those who wish to delve into more detail. It serves as both an important historical chronicle as well as a highly readable account of the population’s pandemic experience over the last two years.

How the NHS Coped with COVID-19
Ellen Welch
Pen and Sword Books, 2022
ISBN 9781399006118

DR. ARPAN K. BANERJEE qualified in medicine at St Thomas’s Hospital Medical School, London. He was a consultant radiologist in Birmingham 1995–2019. He was President of the radiology section of the RSM 2005–2007 and on the scientific committee of the Royal College of Radiologists 2012–2016. He was Chairman of the British Society for the History of Radiology 2012–2017. He is Chairman of ISHRAD. He is author/co-author of papers on a variety of clinical, radiological, and medical historical topics and seven books, including Classic Papers in Modern Diagnostic Radiology (2005) and The History of Radiology (OUP 2013).

Summer 2022



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