They are the best of Britain’s entertainers and they all have one thing in common – their love of the NHS.
It was the doctors and nurses on the UK frontline who patched up chat show king Graham Norton when he was stabbed by thugs. It was NHS medics who pumped the stomach of actor and author Stephen Fry after a cocktail of drugs taken age 17. The NHS helped Michael Palin recover from heart surgery and actor Emilia Clarke to survive brain haemorrhage trauma.
Now with the help of Adam Kay, ex-junior doctor-turned comedian and author, more than 100 stars have come together to tell their stories. Proceeds from the book, Dear NHS: 100 Stories to Say Thank You, are going to NHS charities.
Adam, author of This is Going to Hurt, says: “It was a dream line-up. But when I started reading what the NHS means to all these people, I thought, we’ve all got a personal experience of the NHS.”
The book includes contributions from Jo Brand and Dawn French, Sir Paul McCartney, Dame Julie Walters, Ed Sheeran and Martin Freeman and opens with Norton reliving the moment he was stabbed by muggers as he walked home from a party.
Kay and his husband, TV producer James Farrell, contacted celebrity friends and agents to get the ball rolling, and the approaches to big names such as Jonathan Ross and Konnie Huq soon had a ripple effect.
“I was surprised by people’s responses,” says Adam. “I didn’t want to dictate what the book was. I thought Jimmy Carr would write something hilarious. He writes painfully and movingly about the death of his mum. We all think we know Graham Norton and then he writes about such an enormous thing to have happened to him.”
The Covid-19 crisis had made Adam, who quit the NHS in 2010, wish he could do something to help. And the stories aren’t just testimonials. They are secrets and memories shared.
He seems to have coped well in lockdown, despite the postponement of his tour dates and the delay of filming the eight-part BBC2 adaptation of This Is Going To Hurt, a memoir in diary form of his life as a doctor. Ben Whishaw will play Kay, who has written the script, while Farrell is producing it. On a personal level things could have been much worse, he reflects. “I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve not lost any family or friends, which is the most important thing.”
Two of his siblings are doctors and he admits he does worry about them, along with many of his friends who work on the front line.
“A friend of mine said right at the start, when doctors and nurses and midwives were dying when there was a crisis with PPE, ‘This isn’t really what I signed up for’ and it’s true. You don’t go to medical school thinking that, ‘This might cost me my life’.”
He has abided by the lockdown rules, wears a face mask wherever he goes and won’t be hurrying to the pub any time soon.
“My gut feeling is that we are being hasty in getting back to normal. It isn’t over. People are dying. It worries me.”
Adam Kay, Dear NHS: 100 Stories to Say Thank You, Trapeze, £16.99
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