Lightweight account of hospital management

This memoir from a UK hospital manager is not detailed enough to be useful.

‘It’s never easy these days’ by Gareth Hollbrooke

Gareth Hollbrooke worked in NHS and private hospital administration for 20 years from the late 1970s. His book is intended to counterbalance the negative media stereotype of hospital managers generated in recent years.

The 1980s and 1990s saw many important changes in the NHS but, while he mentions some of them, the author misses the opportunity to explain the implementation of the developments in any detail. Instead, he offers anecdotes involving the odd, eccentric and sometimes bloody minded members of what he calls the “tribes” he has to “deal with”.

Among these characters we meet a matron with a collection of old-fashioned hats, the head of a catering commissioning team on a fact-finding trip to Venice who was of such ample body mass index that a gondolier insisted on raising his fee, and an ‘it-was-almost-a-problem’ story about someone who dared to park his caravan in a quiet corner of a hospital car park while he took a short break from a long journey.

Part of the book covers Hollbrooke’s employment in Saudi Arabia. Again, he tells us little about overseas hospital management but comments on odd expatriate characters, tells us about his enjoyable commute by helicopter, and shares his discovery that a good way to write off dead stock is to send it, whether of any use or not, to the victims of an earthquake in Yemen.

In his introduction, Hollbrooke claims that “hospital and healthcare management is arguably one of the most difficult management tasks that any manager would have to face”. However, his account fails to explain what makes hospital administration different from other fields of management. A reader expecting a candid account of modern hospital management will be disappointed by this collection of lightweight reminiscences from a bygone era.


‘It’s never easy these days’ by Gareth Hollbrooke. Pp xvi+220. Price £9.99. Leicestershire: Matador; 2015. ISBN 978 1 78462 227 5

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 18 July 2015, Vol 295, No 7871;295(7871):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2015.20068716

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