Book Review: Sirens by Tom Reynolds

Taken me a few days to finish reading (it is 590 pages) but I have finally finished it so can get on with reviewing it and reading other (shorter) books so I can review them also.

Sirens is the omnibus version of Tom Reynolds (real name: Brian Kellett)’s blog turned memoirs Blood, Sweat and Tea and More Blood, More Sweat and Another Cup of Tea. With some extra stuff too that feed into the Channel 4 TV series that was inspired by the books (known as Sirens), this book is a collection of blog posts that follows Reynolds as he works both as part of a 2 man crew on an ambulance and as a solo responder on a FRU (Fast Response Unit) car in East London, going to calls that range from the ridiculous to the heartbreaking, the dangerous to the inspiring.

Some of the stories leave you wonder about some people (like the parents who fail to give their children any basic pain relief and call an ambulance just because their child has thrown up) and angers you as you read about the ridiculous pressures that are being placed on the ambulance by both the government (with their targets) and sometimes the incompetence of other healthcare professionals who fail to do their duty.

This book is very funny in places and in others, it makes you want to cry your heart out. Altogether it is a gripping read. It is very readable and is formatted as blog posts so you can dip in and out, reading a few sections here and a few there. His writing style is very sarcastic in some places, slightly ranting in others but always entertaining. All medical jargon is explained, either in the text or in the glossary at the back, and, during the process of writing the book, he has added his own notes and further information to some of the posts. Reynolds worked during 7/7 and he blogged about the events, some of the comments and praises the LAS (London Ambulance Service) received afterwards, as well as noting that none of the awards given out afterwards seemed to make their way to any of the LAS staff. He also was blogging during the failed attacks in the following weeks and month afterwards.

He also presents the more dangerous side to working in the ambulance service, such as the stabbings and knife attacks, as well as the exposure and danger they put themselves in where they could catch diseases such as HIV. He also talks about how the medical dramas on TV tend to get it very wrong or presents an unrealistic view of NHS and what doctors, nurses and paramedic staff can and cannot do.

I have read this book twice before and I would re-read it again, unlike the Stuart Gray Paramedic Diaries book. Sirens is much more in-depth because it is actually Reynolds (sometimes edited) blog posts and not Gray just talking about and telling various stories in a prose format.

This book is great fun, sometimes so funny you will be laughing out loud, as well as heartbreaking. The physical book is very large and can be hard to hold (there are probably e-book versions available of it) but is well worth a read if you are curious and want to see what state the NHS is in. It is also brilliant and almost unique in that the book focuses on the ambulance service and its paramedical staff and gives an insiders look at the NHS. It would be ideal for anyone looking to go into healthcare services. If, like me, you are a writer, I would also say it is great for research, providing the writer did some of their own additional research as some of the information contained will be outdated.


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