Rachel Clarke

researcher (ORCID 0000-0001-9606-2510)

Rachel Clarke (born 1972) is a British palliative care doctor and writer.

Formerly a current affairs journalist, Clarke attended medical school from 2003, qualifying as a doctor in 2009. During 2015–2016, she had an active voice in the dispute in the United Kingdom between junior doctors and the government over their contractual conditions of work, appearing in multiple television debates and interviews. Her best-selling memoir about life as a junior doctor, Your Life In My Hands, was published in 2017. Her second book, Dear Life, published in January 2020, explores death, dying and end-of-life care. Her third book, Breathtaking (2021), is an account of working inside the NHS during the UK's first wave of COVID-19.


  • If [Sally] Davies really wants to bolster rock-bottom morale among juniors, she could publicly lobby the government to address the gaps that cripple every junior doctor rota. She could argue for proper hospital rest facilities so that never again does a junior doctor kill themselves while driving home from a night shift, having fallen asleep at the wheel. She could demand a public inquiry into the recent spate of junior doctor suicides, because no one’s conditions of work should ever make them feel suicidal, least of all those who save lives for a living. She could, in short, campaign for meaningful action, not a conveniently cost-neutral name change.
  • The morning after it happens, it is hard to believe the sun still shines. I am standing in the kitchen, staring out across fields of frost, when a wren darts and whirs through the hedge in front of me. Dad, in a flash, is there too. "Look, Rachel! A wren!" His heart, like mine, never failed to lift at this smallest and most jaunty of birds. But, the night before, cancer finally claimed my dad. The wrens will keep whirring, but he has gone.
  • [T]he ABC acronym used in traumas all over the world today arose from a particular light aircraft crash on a Nebraska prairie in the 1970s. James Styner, the American trauma surgeon who happened to be flying the plane, was horrified by the chaos, incompetence and dithering that nearly cost his four young children their lives in a tiny rural hospital. The acronym he developed is based on the principle that when someone is critically injured, time is of the essence. Airway, Breathing and Circulation problems must be fixed in that order, before moving on to the next thing, because they are most likely to kill the patient fastest. The genius of the acronym lies in its simplicity. It gives doctors, nurses and paramedics a scaffold to cling on to amid the shock and disarray of a major disaster, providing emergency treatment one logical step at a time.
  • [Frail patients] went on to Covid wards, which was where I tended to work. Sometimes, six or eight patients on a ward would die in one day. The hideous, industrial scale of death after death after death – it was utterly horrific. And I say that as someone who is very used to death and dying.
  • [Clarke was] caring for patients who are destined from the moment they come into hospital to never even see a human face again [...] Every face they see is masked.
  • [From a family of male doctors and female nurses, Clarke at first did not want to become a doctor] I worried that my main reason would be because I hero-worshipped my dad, wanted to make him proud. [As a journalist, Clarke] had massive impostor syndrome, always felt like I was faking it, trying to act tough.
  • This week, in response to the series, NHS England linked staff to a range of support services in a tweet [which follows]. The only problem? The dedicated NHS staff mental health and wellbeing hubs to which the tweet directed staff had their funding cut in early 2023. Almost half have since closed. I suppose they were judged too costly to maintain for NHS staff who were so evidently, from the outset, expendable.
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