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July 25, 2010

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , , — Dr. Phil @ 2:00 pm

Dr Phil Hammond – NHS doctor, Private Eye journalist, campaigner & comic – launches his campaign to become Health Secretary with two funny & thought-provoking Edinburgh Fringe shows.


Edinburgh Fringe 2019

A Dr Phil Double Bill

August 2-25 The Great Health Con

6.05-7.05 PM,   Symposium Hall, @theSpace Venue 43
Prices:             £12/ concessions £10.   2 for 1 Friends of Fringe
Venue BO:      0131 510 2385
Fringe BO:      0131 226 0000
Suitable for 14+


In “The Great Health Con”, Dr Phil ponders why we spend trillions on ‘health’ when, like Brexit, no one can agree what it means. So who’s conning who? The causes of poor health have less to do with what’s going on inside our bodies and more to do with who’s shitting in our heads. Advertising, Inequality, Big Pharma, Bad Porn…

Dr Phil, perhaps unwisely, uses his own mental and sexual health as examples. And his favourite drug is kindness – it works for everyone and it’s very hard to get the dose wrong. So why do we still treat poverty with statins and alienation with anti-depressants? And who’s most likely to kill you; doctors, druids or the DUP? It’s time to take back control of our health. Together, and free from bullshit.

Tickets on sale here

August 2-24  Vote Dr Phil?

(not 6, 14, 15, 20)

21.30-22.55 PM, Fleming Theatre, @theSpace Venue 54

Prices:             £12/ concessions £10.  2 for 1 Friends of Fringe
Venue BO:      0131 510 2384
Fringe BO:      0131 226 0000
Suitable for 14+


In “Vote Dr Phil?”, Phil charts his ill-considered plan to topple his MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg, before having a pop at Health Secretary. His campaign got off to a glorious start when he was sacked by the BBC for broadcasting to potential constituents. Undeterred, Dr Phil has made a thorough diagnosis of our terminal political system and has some radical solutions to put the pulse, hope and compassion back into public service and public services. Come hear his People’s Plan for the NHS, support Decent Jobs and Deaths For All and join The Popular Front Against All Things Bad. In the case of a snap election, this show may be retrospective. In the case of somebody discovering photos of what he really got up to at medical school, Dr Phil may abruptly retire from politics citing ill health.

Tickets on sale here

NOTE: Dr Phil is a properly accredited NHS associate specialist whose patients and peers rate very highly. He is also a deeply flawed individual prone to lies and lapses of judgement. He lives but a condom’s throw away from Jacob Rees-Mogg.

“If Dr Phil were a medicine, you should swig him by the litre” The Times ****

“One of the most entertainingly subversive people on the planet.” The Guardian

“Hugely enjoyable, well crafted, poignant stand up” Broadway Baby 2016 ****

“Hammond is a passionate rabble rouser and impressively positive…. the perfect health secretary” Fest Magazine 2016 ****

“Very funny, honest, clever and moving. Passionate about the NHS” Dr Clive Peedell, founder National Health Action Party

Here’s my previous show, ‘Life and Death…. but Mainly Death’

It’s my most personal show, with a few harsh truths, home truths and lies for laughs. But there are lots of positive health messages too. Feel free to share

For all other enquiries, please contact Shelley Devlin at the Richards Stone Partnership, 0207 497 0849


Dr Phil Hammond can talk seriously or humorously, and usually both,  about any health and lifestyle topic. He has been an NHS doctor for 32 years, a comedian for 23 years, a BBC broadcaster for 29 years and Private Eye’s medical correspondent for 27 years. He qualified as a doctor in 1987, was a part time GP for 20 years, spent 5 years in sexual health and currently works as an associate specialist in paediatrics in an NHS team helping young people with chronic fatigue. Phil presented five series of Trust Me, I’m a Doctor on BBC2, and has appeared many times on Have I Got News For You, the News Quiz, the Now Show and Countdown.

Phil has been a Lecturer in Medical Communication at the Universities of Birmingham and Bristol. As a journalist, he broke the story of the Bristol heart scandal in 1992, and gave evidence to the subsequent Public Inquiry. In 2012, Phil and Andrew Bousfield were shortlisted for the Martha Gellhorn Prize for investigative journalism for their Private Eye special report on the shocking treatment of NHS whistle-blowers, Shoot the Messenger. He has twice been named in the top 100 NHS Clinical Leaders by the Health Service Journal, and was voted Teacher of the Year by the medical students of Birmingham University. He was revalidated by the GMC in 2018 with the best patient satisfaction ratings his appraiser had ever seen (largely down to the fact that he is the only doctor in the NHS who gives 90-minute appointments)

With David Spicer, Phil wrote 5 series of the medico-political satire ‘Polyoaks’ for Radio 4, and five books including ‘Staying Alive’ and ‘Sex, Sleep or Scrabble?.’ Phil was half of the award-winning comedy junior doctor double act Struck Off and Die with Tony Gardner, and has done four UK solo comedy tours, teaching audiences how to pleasure themselves sensibly and take the pressure off the NHS. His show, ‘Happy Birthday NHS?’ celebrates its 70th birthday and provides a road map for its salvation. It toured in 2018.

Phil presented his own BBC Radio Bristol show for 12 years, ‘Dr Phil’s Saturday Surgery’ before being sacked by the BBC in August 2018 for tweeting that he would stand against his local MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg, at the next election. Having previously been assured he would only have to stand down during purdah, the BBC did a U-turn when they realised Rees-Mogg could demand his own radio show to broadcast to constituents. This story, and Phil’s subsequent campaign to become health secretary, is featured in Phil’s 2019 Edinburgh Fringe show Vote Dr Phil? His other fringe show, The Great Health Con, explores how and why we spend trillions pursuing ‘health’ without understanding what it means. Phil speaks widely on the daily habits of health – CLANGERS (Connect, Learn, (be) Active, Notice, Give back, Eat well, Relax, Sleep – and tries to practice what he preaches.

Phil has been married to Jo, a GP, for 26 years and she is the main reason he is so healthy. They live in North East Somerset, just a condom’s throw away from Jacob Rees-Mogg. His hat is still in the ring to stand at the next election as an independent candidate promoting intelligent kindness and health for all.


The daily habits of healthy, happy people are easy to say but harder to do. Try to do your daily CLANGERS, and help others to do theirs. Changes in lifestyle are far more powerful than any drug we have to offer.

My review in The Times of Dr Rachel Clarke’s riveting medico-political memoir ‘Your Life in My Hands’, which details the pressures felt by NHS junior doctors working in an unsafe system, and the desperation that lead them to strike.  Uncomfortable reading for Jeremy Hunt and the BMA



Here’s my BBC NEWS interview about junior doctors. You can’t have a ‘truly 7 day NHS’ without truly 7 day funding and 7 day safe staffing levels. For junior doctors alone it would require another 4,000 to have the same high quality, safe care 7 days a week – you can’t just stretch 5 days’ staffing over 7. the same applies to all other groups of NHS staff. The 7 day NHS is an aspiration that will take time, training, inspiration and involvement to achieve.  It can’t be brutally imposed to a political deadline with no funding or staffing.


Has anything really changed since 2011? Has any NHS whistle-blower been compensated or reinstated? Is it any safer to blow the whistle in the NHS?

‘Shoot the Messenger’ – a Private Eye special investigation by Phil Hammond and Andrew Bousfield into how NHS whistle-blowers are silenced and sacked was shortlisted for the Martha Gellhorn prize for journalism 2011. Available to download here


Phil bbc

Dr Phil Hammond


Staying Alive – How to get the best from the NHS – is full of inspirational stories from patients and carers and glued together with my own reflections of working in, thinking about and investigating the NHS over 30 years. You can read the reviews or add your own tips and tactics here

‘This is a fantastic book about how to live well. Phil Hammond’s goes beyond the usual tips about diet and exercise – we hear about the power of positive thinking, as well as how to get the best out of the health service. And this book is packed with real stories – from people who have become survival experts through their own experiences. Their stories are heartwarming, enlightening and useful.

Phil Hammond has a knack of being brutally honest and very funny at the same time. This is quite simply the most useful book about health and the health service that I’ve ever read.’

Professor Alice Roberts BSc MB BCh PhD Hon.FBAASc
Anatomist, author & broadcaster
Professor of Public Engagement in Science, University of Birmingham



“This is a real find; funny, poignant, thoughtful, worrying, reassuring, and so good it should be on prescription.”
–Roy Lilley @RoyLilley

“Smart and funny, Phil Hammond is the perfect way to inoculate yourself against the nonsense which passes for most health commentary.”
–Alastair McLellan – Editor, Health Service Journal @HSJEditor

“A fascinating insider’s history of the past sixteen years of the NHS. This wise, witty and often moving diary reveals what really went on behind the political and managerial bluster. So well written it turned me into a compulsive page turner.”
–Dr Michael O’Donnell, author of The Barefaced Doctor, a Mischievous Medical Companion

With cartoons by Fran Orford





Phil Hammond is an NHS doctor, campaigner, health writer, investigative journalist, broadcaster, speaker and comedian. He has done all these jobs imperfectly and part-time since 1987, and was also a lecturer in medical communication at the Universities of Birmingham and Bristol. As a doctor, Phil worked part time in general practice for over 20 years, and has also worked in sexual health. He currently works in a specialist NHS team for young people with chronic fatigue syndrome/ME.

Phil presented five series of Trust Me, I’m a Doctor on BBC2, and has been a presenter for BBC Radio Bristol since 2007. He is Private Eye’s medical correspondent, broke the story of the Bristol heart scandal in 1992 and gave evidence to the subsequent Public Inquiry. In 2012, he was shortlisted with Andrew Bousfield for the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Investigative Journalism for ‘Shoot the Messenger,’ a Private Eye investigation into the shocking treatment of NHS whistle-blowers. In 2014 and 2015, he was voted a Top 100 NHS Clinical Leader by the Health Service Journal. He has fiercely supported NHS junior doctors in their battle with the government against an imposed, untested and potentially unsafe new job contract.

As a comedian, Phil was half of the award winning double-act Struck Off and Die, with Tony Gardner. He has done three solo UK tours and is returning to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2016 with two shows – Life and Death (But Mainly Death) and Dr Phil’s NHS Revolution. Phil has appeared many times on Have I Got News for You and Countdown. His NHS comedy, Polyoaks, is written with David Spicer and has had three series on BBC Radio 4. He is a columnist for Telegraph Men and Reveal, and writes comment pieces for the Times. Phil is a patron of Meningitis UK, the Doctors’ Support Network, the Herpes Viruses Association,  PoTS, the NET Patient Foundation and Kissing It Better.

Phil has never belonged to any political party but was highly critical of the Health and Social Care Bill (now Act) in a BBC1 Question Time debate with then health secretary Andrew Lansley. He said the reforms were ‘wonk’, there was no convincing narrative explaining the reasons for the changes and that the focus on competition rather than the collaboration and co-operation needed for an integrated service.

question time

Phil has written  five books – Medicine Balls, Trust Me, I’m (Still) a Doctor and Sex, Sleep or Scrabble? ‘What do Doctors Really Think?’ and ‘Staying Alive – How to Get the Best from the NHS’.

Phil was revalidated by the GMC in September 2013. Below is the feedback from his colleagues and patients for my revalidation 360_feedback_Dr_Philip_Hammond[1]

Real time reviews of my consultations from patients and parents can be found here

My NHS work is as part of a specialist NHS team in Bath, treating young people with severe fatigue, based at the Royal United Hospital in Bath. Details of the service we offer are here. Good advice on accessing specialist CFS/ME services and treatments available can be found via the the Action for ME website

 I can’t give any personal medical advice via this site, and I don’t do any private practice.


Praise for Dr Phil’s comedy

                                  “One of the most entertainingly subversive people on the planet.” The Guardian

 “Tough on doctors, patients and politicians. And he’s funny.” The Telegraph

“Sceptical, irreverent, very funny and like a mighty gush of fresh air in a field that’s bedevilled with cover ups and cloaked in a vow of silence” Time Out

“Generates dozens of laughs and more ire than any amount of tentative taboo-breaching” The Financial Times

                                    ‘If Dr Phil were a medicine, you should swig him by the litre’ **** The Times

‘Consistently funny’ *****  The Sunday Telegraph

“You’ll never see a doctor in quite the same way again.” ***** The Scotsman

  Galaxy 749Born in the NHS

To read Phil’s Private Eye columns, written under the pseudonym MD, click on… er… Private Eye.

Dr Phil 2IMG

These action shots were taken in 1988, by photographer Homer Sykes, when glasses were riduclously big and babies were ridiculously slippery.

Dr Phil and Dr Tony, then and now


Galaxy 375

Struck Off and Die’s first ever performance, Bristol, 1990

Dr Tony’s Braineater, Berkley Brasserie Bristol 1990

Dr Phil’s First Stand-Up, Berkley Brasserie, Bristol 1990

September 18, 2018

Filed under: #health4all — Dr. Phil @ 3:40 pm

Healthy Living Advice for the Whole Family.

Our health is our freedom to live a life that we have reason to value, and our ability to bounce back when our circumstances change and life kicks us in the teeth. Both of these elements of health are more likely to happen if we try to adopt daily habits that are fun, good for us and rewarding. One way to remember them is the acronym CLANGERS, which depicts 8 daily vitamins (and joys) of health.

Try to do your CLANGERS every day, as part of a regular routine 

  • Connect
  • Learn
  • (be) Active
  • Notice
  • Give back
  • Eat well
  • Relax
  • Sleep

In 2008, research by the New Economics Foundation and funded by the government, came up with five evidence-based steps we can all take to improve our mental wellbeing. Connect, Learn, be Active, Notice and Give back (CLANG). I built on this to come up with a plan for ‘whole-body wellbeing’ by adding Eat well, Relax and Sleep. These are the fundamentals of feeling good and, if you can do them at regular times to fit in with your body’s natural 24 hour rhythm (particularly eating, exercising and sleeping), it should improve how you feel and your energy levels.

CONNECT with the world around you. Human beings are social animals. We are leaves on a tree, needing to feel part of something bigger. Reach out to people, pets, plants, places and the planet.These connections are the cornerstones of our life. Take time and care to nurture them. Disconnection and loneliness may be as bad for us as smoking. And don’t forget to connect with yourself. Loving yourself may not always be easy, but are you happy in your skin? Do you enjoy your own company? Can you disappear inside your own head and not mind what you find there? People who like their own company like being on their own sometimes. You have space to think, reflect, explore and relax.

LEARN What do you want to do with your one wild and precious life? A purpose in life often stems from learning about what matters most to you, developing a passion for learning and keeping your curiosity alive. And there is good evidence that the more you learn, the better your health becomes. Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Join a choir. Take on a different responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Develop new passions. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun. And learning with others in your ‘circle’ often cements the skills and gives you confidence to use your new knowledge.

Be ACTIVE, in mind and body. Rediscover activities and passions you left behind, and have the courage to try new ones. Aim for five portions of fun a day, each different, at least one outdoors and one that involved getting pleasantly breathless. Being outdoors in the morning light wakes you up and helps you sleep well later. Gardening, dancing or singing in a choir are all excellent therapy. Physical activity is better for both mind and body than any drug, but keeps you awake if you do it too close to bed time. Choose activities that you enjoy, so you want to keep doing them. Park runs, dancing, singing, cycling and gardening are great examples. And let’s not forget the power of pets. They are usually happy to see you and . give you unconditional love when you are feeling at your lowest and least energized.

NOTICE, and be present in, the world around you. Try to be as still as you can be for fifteen minutes every day, preferably outside. Fill up your senses. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Enjoy the everyday. Savour the moment, and your place in it. Life is a balance and being and doing, and the older and wiser we get, we realise that most of the pleasure in life comes from just being. Notice how lovely your partner or children are without judging or diagnosing them. Simply slowing down and focusing on your breathing for ten minutes a day can pay huge dividends. Breathe in for 3, hold for 4 and out for 5. Feel those fabulous human air bags filling up to their fullest extent. Then slowly, slowly let it all out.

GIVE BACK. Helping and caring for friends, strangers and those less fortunate than ourselves is fundamental to good emotional health. It cements us as part of a community and develops more meaningful connections and insights. A friend of mine overheard a dad telling a waiter in the Glasgow hotel that is son was having chemotherapy in the nearby hospital, and that he was going to shave his head in solidarity so they would both be bald when they came down to breakfast in the morning. He wanted to warn the waiters so they didn’t feel uncomfortable. The head waiter said he would pass the message on. When the newly bald father walked into the restaurant with his son the following morning, they looked around and saw that every single waiter had shaved his head. The joy of being human is to be humane.

EAT WELL. Food is above all a pleasure. Learn what’s good and enjoyable to eat, and in what quantities. Learn how to grow it, where to buy it and how to prepare it. Set time aside to sit and eat with friends and family. Your gut is like a garden. It contains trillions of healthy bacteria that are as fundamental to your health as your DNA. Many people with chronic diseases have a fairly narrow range of bacteria in the gut. Healthier people seem to have a wider range of bacteria fed from a wide variety of different foods. Eat plenty of plants – vegetables and fruits of many different types and colours, nuts, seeds, whole grains and olive oil. Add in a little bit of what you fancy.  Sustainable fish, lean meat, dark chocolate and  the odd beer or glass of wine (note: alcohol can improve your chat but seriously disrupt your sleep). You can have the odd Pringle but you wouldn’t plant too many in your garden.  Cutting down on sugary snacks and drinks, processed food is a good starting point. Learn to love water as your ‘go to’ drink. And try to do all your eating in a 12 hour period (say 7am-7pm) to fit in with your body clock, give your gut a break and improve your sleep. It also keeps you at a healthy weight

RELAX. Take time to rest and reflect on the day you’ve had, reliving and re-savouring the happy memories and having gratitude for friends and family. Learn to meditate. Be kind to your mind and let it wind down and de-clutter. My Uncle Ron used to have a sitting room that was just for sitting. At the end of the day, he would really happy little things that have happened during the day, and be grateful for the love he had in his life. I used to think he was crazy, but I now know he was practising positive psychology. Our brains are neuro plastic, which means what we focus on is what grows. So if we learn to relive happy moments and have gratitude for the good things, it can actually make us happier. And this happy end of day wind down can really improve your sleep.

SLEEP Good sleep is one of life’s great joys. It’s also essential for mental and physical health, helping you prevent and recover from a whole range of illnesses and improving your energy levels, creativity and performance. The flip side is that sleep deprivation prevents you from recovering from many illnesses, and it’s the first and most important thing to concentrate on. Adults work best on a regular 8 hours sleep a night, adolescents need nine hours if possible and children need more. Half the population in the UK have poor quality sleep and feel more tired, more stressed, less energized and more anxious as a result. If you’d like to find out more about the importance of a normal sleep pattern,  I would recommend Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker or the The Four Pillar Plan by Dr Ranjan Chatterjee. Dr Chatterjee also hosts some excellent podcasts on health.



 The CLANGERS you can do when you’re ill will be very different from the CLANGERS you do when you’re well, but they are equally important

Severe fatigue often happens to previously very active people. As one of my patients put it; ‘It’s like I used to have Duracell batteries but now I have Poundland batteries.’ If you overdo your activity, you can boom, bust, crash and take days to recover, which is why you have to use your energy wisely, and switch to rewarding activities that are less exhausting.

One young man played football for Bristol City but got severe fatigue after glandular fever and had to stop, which was a crushing disappointment. His Dad encouraged him to take up the guitar – a much less energy-draining hobby – and he gradually taught himself to play, finding the strumming very therapeutic. He has now fully recovered, formed a band, played a gig at the Fleece and Firkin in Bristol and made an EP. He sent me a lovely letter saying how much he loved his music and if he’d never have had severe fatigue, he’d never have picked up the guitar in the first place. Sometimes doors close in life, but another door opens.

Severe fatigue can be caused by many things, such as sleep deprivation, stress, anxiety, low mood or just about any illness, including Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME, which is a physical illness that may be triggered by an infection, or repeated infections, or other stressful events. Sometimes there is no apparent trigger, and there may just be a strong genetic predisposition to fatigue. A nutritious diet is essential for all of us but with severe fatigue you may find little and often is easier than eating big meals. Try to do your eating in a 12 hour window, and not late at night. It’s also important to try to optimise your sleep. As a teenager, this means trying to get 8-9 hours good quality sleep at the same time every night, including weekends, and trying to avoid oversleeping (you get no extra benefit unless you are sleep deprived) and afternoon catnaps (which, beyond half an hour, can interfere with the quality of your later sleep). Adults  of all ages function best after 8 hours sleep

Teenagers have it tough because their body clock shifts to make their natural going to be time later (11 PM onwards) but school demands that they get up early (often 6.30 am or before). So many are sleep deprived and stressed-out for no fault of their own. Severe fatigue on top of early school wakening is a double whammy.  It is far more important for your health and recovery to fiercely protect the 8-9 hours sleep and aim to get to school at morning break at the earliest, until you have fully recovered

A high quality sleep routine that fits in with your natural body clock is absolutely vital to recovery. Below are 25 tips for better sleep, not all of which may work for you, but they may start your journey to recovery. A normal sleep pattern can improve memory, energy, pain and many other unpleasant symptoms.


  1. Try to go to bed at the same time and – most importantly – wake up at the same time each day, including weekends, even if you have had a bad night. This may not always be possible. Aim for a ‘non-negotiable’ 8 hours sleep every night as an adult, 9 hours as an adolescent. This isn’t easy, so decide which timing works best for you and your daily functioning. You will need to ensure 8.5-9.5 hours in bed to give you adequate nodding off time. Keep a sleep diary if this helps.
  2. If this routine goes wrong, don’t beat yourself up. If you don’t get good, refreshing sleep you will build up a sleep debt that has to be paid off on days off. And if your red (high) energy allowance is set too high, you will sleep longer or more deeply to try to recover
  3. If you are asleep all day and awake at night, treat this like jetlag and cut back your going to bed time and your waking up time by 1 hour each day. Day One: 6 am sleep 3 pm wake Day Two: 5 am sleep, 2 pm wake Day Three:4am sleep – 1 pm wake etc until you wake at the desired time.
  4. Have the right sunlight exposure. Daylight is key to regulating daily sleep patterns. Try to get outside in natural sunlight for at least thirty minutes each day. If you aren’t sensitive to light wake up with the sun or use bright lights in the morning. If you have problems falling asleep, you should get an hour of exposure to morning sunlight and turn down the lights before bedtime.
  5. Enforce a strict ‘no caffeine after noon’ rule. Coffee, colas, certain teas, and chocolate contain the stimulant caffeine, and its effects can take as long as twelve hours to wear off fully. Nicotine in cigarettes and e-cigarettes, and alcohol also severely disrupts your sleep, as can some medications. Check with your pharmacist.
  6. Come off close-up screens and games 60-90 minutes before bed. The blue light and excitement they give off boosts cortisol and blocks melatonin release.
  7. Set an alarm to tell you when it’s time for bed, and stick to it. Alarm clocks in the morning freak out your heart and are best avoided if possible.
  8. Fit blackout blinds in your bedroom. The darker your room for sleep, the better. A black-out mask is a cheaper option
  9. Remove ALL screens from your bedroom, so temptation is avoided.
  10. Consider opening the bedroom window. The perfect temperature for sleeping is around 17ºC/ 65ºF. A cooler room is much better for sleeping than a hot one
  11. Eat earlier in the day, before 7 pm if possible. Don’t snack at night.
  12. Exercise earlier in the day, and outdoors when you can. Exercising 2 hours before sleep time raises your metabolic rate and temperature, and makes it hard to sleep
  13. Socializing is important but don’t do it late at night except on special occasions.
  14. Consider red lights for night-time illumination
  15. Consider amber glasses to filter blue light from screens
  16. Don’t use your phone as an alarm clock
  17. Install f:lux on your e-devices, or switch on ‘night-time mode’ from 6pm
  18. Don’t take catnaps after 3 pm and keep them short, ideally less than 30 minutes. And keep the curtains open. You are not trying to fall into deep sleep as this disrupts the next night’s sleep, but trying to have a quick refresh.
  19. Relax before bed. Don’t overschedule your evening so that no time is left for unwinding. A relaxing activity, such as reading, listening to music, chatting through the day with friends or family or stroking a pet should be part of your bedtime ritual.
  20. Take a hot bath before bed. The drop in body temperature after getting out of the bath may help you feel sleepy, and the bath can help you relax and slow down so you’re more ready to sleep.
  21. If you can’t sleep, counting sheep isn’t as effective as repeating the same word over and over (the, the, the, the…) or filling your mind with peaceful music
  22. Don’t lie in bed awake. If you find yourself still awake after staying in bed for more than twenty minutes or if you are starting to feel anxious or worried, get up and do some relaxing activity until you feel sleepy. The anxiety of not being able to sleep can make it harder to fall asleep.
  23. Keep trying to improve your sleep, little by little. It’s about quality as much as quantity
  24. We all have bad runs of sleep, particularly in stressful times, but if we allow ourselves to get back in synch with our body clock, we may rediscover the joy of a good night’s sleep
  25. Some drugs may appear to help you sleep but your sleep quality will be better if you can manage without them, so try these tips first, keep a sleep diary and ask your doctor or nurse to review your progress.

September 7, 2018

Life and Death… but Mainly Death
Filed under: #VoteDrPhil — Dr. Phil @ 5:42 pm

Here’s my favourite and most personal show, recorded at the Komedia in Bath in 2017. It was first performed as ‘Life and Death… but Mainly Death’ at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2016. There are some home truths, some half truths and some lies for laughs – but I’m most proud of the positive health messages. Think of it as a Fit and Proper Person Test…

September 4, 2018

Turning healthcare on its head: the bidet revolution (feat. CLANGERS)
Filed under: #health4all — Dr. Phil @ 8:54 am

‘Why treat people and send them back to the conditions that make them sick?’
Michael Marmot

Universal healthcare in a society that is poor at prevention and in denial about death is like attempting to rescue a never ending stream of people from a river of illness. As science advances, we dive deeper and deeper into the river to pull out people who are sicker and sicker. The right to healthcare for all means that all too often, we treat the untreatable. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean it’s kind or wise to do so. A high-tech death can be very unkind. We spend so much time, effort and money pulling bodies to the riverbank, that we have no energy left to wander upstream and stop them falling in.

We live in a very unequal society, with huge disparities in both life expectancy and years lived in good health. Unless we can improve living and working conditions as well as lifestyle, with a strong emphasis on helping people to build resilience and stay mentally healthy, then no system of universal healthcare can cope, no matter how it is designed or funded. Those of us who are lucky enough to be healthy at present have a responsibility to try to remain so for as long as we can. The best hope for the NHS lies outside its structures. We must reduce poverty, promote healthy minds as well as bodies, lessen the burden of avoidable illness and permit choice in dying. There’s more than enough unavoidable illness to keep the NHS in business.

This burden of avoidable illness could be further reduced by being honest about medical harm and the limits of medicine, and restricting over-medicalisation. Too many serious errors have been covered up and repeated in healthcare systems primed to protect professional, institutional, corporate and political reputations. Too many tests and treatments of marginal benefit turn healthy people into anxious patients. Enough people fall into the river of illness without being sucked in by the health industry.

There simply isn’t a sound evidence base for the mass medication of the elderly, many of whom are either unable or unwilling to take so many drugs as prescribed. Waste due to ineffective treatments, non- attendance and non-adherence is significant. When patients are given the time and opportunity to fully understand and participate in decisions about their care, taking in the likely long-term risks and benefits in absolute as well as relative terms, they often choose less medicine, not more. Universal healthcare must also be prudent healthcare, using the minimal effective intervention wherever possible. Sound evidence based on real life data, as well as compassion, must inform health policy and provision.

Above all we must see healthcare in the context of all care. The boundaries between self, health and social care are entirely superficial, and we must extend our circles of collaboration and compassion as widely as possible and consider the environmental impact of what we do. Indigenous populations have a better understanding of how to live on this planet without taking so much as to threaten the health of future generations, and how to die. We only die once, and a gentle death for as many people as possible is the kindest service society can offer. As the Australian Aboriginal elder Dr Noel Nannup explains: ‘Human beings are the carers of everything.’ But to care for everything, we must first care for ourselves and build our own resilience. The NHS has had enough top down ‘re-disorganisations’. It’s time for a bidet revolution. From the bottom up.

Healthcare begins with self-care

‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’
Mary Oliver

Self-care requires time to reflect and to do some ‘self- work’. What are our goals, values, passions and purpose? Can we get near them without burning out? How can we be kind to our minds? How will we cope with pressure, failure, and adversity? Is our current lifestyle making avoidable disease more likely or even inevitable? Physical health stems from mental health, and learning how to be happy, how to self-care and how to cope under pressure should be taught and revisited at every stage of our lives. And we need to build happy and resilient cities, communities and organizations that promote mental health and allow individuals to flourish.

And yet as a society, we aren’t great at talking about what matters most (mental health, sexual health, how we want to die). Self-care needs the self-knowledge that comes from these difficult conversations, and also self- love. Can you disappear inside your mind and like what you find there? Enjoying our own company is key to happiness and resilience. Accepting responsibility for self-care is also fundamental to the sustainability of universal healthcare. Every day we don’t need to use the NHS, someone who does benefits.

The CLANGERS self-care model

Universal healthcare must embrace the continuum of self-care to intensive care, and I would restructure it around the CLANGERS model. The Clangers of the children’s television series were, and probably still are, a community of mauve mice who spoke in whistles and ate sensible portions of soup, made by a dragon, and blue-string pudding, none of which was processed. They lived a simple yet serene life built around friendship, collaboration and enjoying the little things. Very seldom, if ever, did they need to go to hospital or indeed die, because they were so good at self-care and pleasuring themselves in a safe and sustainable way.

The Clangers’ habit for a satisfying and meaningful life can be learned by anyone, at any age:

Connect with the world around you. Reach out to people, pets, plants and places. We like to feel as if we belong, as part of something bigger. These connections are the cornerstones of your life. Take time and care to nurture them. And don’t forget to connect with yourself.

Learn. A purpose in life often stems from learning what matters most to you, developing a passion for learning and keeping your curiosity alive. Why do you get out of bed in the morning?

• be Active, in mind and body. Rediscover activities and passions you left behind, and have the courage to try new ones. Aim for five portions of fun a day, each different, at least one outdoors and one that involves getting pleasantly breathless.

Notice, and be present in, the world around you. Fill up your senses. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Enjoy the everyday. Savour the moment, and your place in it.

Give back. Helping and caring for friends, strangers and those less fortunate than ourselves is fundamental to good emotional health. It cements us as part of a community and develops more meaningful connections and insights. The joy of being human is to be humane.

Eat well. Learn what’s good and enjoyable to eat, and in what quantities. Learn how to grow it, where to buy it and how to prepare it. Set time aside to sit and eat with friends and family. Eating well on a budget isn’t easy. For excellent help try Cooking on a Bootstrap by Jack Munroe

Relax. Take time to rest and reflect on the day you’ve had, reliving and re-savouring the happy memories and having gratitude for friends and family. Learn to meditate. Be kind to your mind and let it wind down and de-clutter.

Sleep. Don’t cheat on your sleep. It’s vital recovery time for mind and body, and boosts your energy, creativity and productivity. You eat better and exercise more when you’re well rested. Relaxing and winding down beforehand is key. Learning to housekeep your mind and deal with stress is vital. If you doubt the power of sleep, read Why We Sleep by Mathew Walker

Some lucky people will do all eight steps intuitively, partly out of habit. Others will struggle through sickness and circumstance but with support and time, can continuously improve and slowly raise their own bar – hopefully without the stress of comparing themselves to others. If you need more detailed help with your CLANGERS, I recommend the book The 4 Pillar Plan – Eat, Sleep, Relax, Move – by Dr Rangan Chatterjee. He is one of the few lifestyle medicine gurus who isn’t trying to sell you a fad diet or his own brand of nutritional supplements, and his enthusiasm is infectious. You can also check out his podcasts here.

Your Clangers may be very different to my Clangers, the only rule is that we should try not to harm ourselves or others. The ‘clang’ in CLANGERS comes from the government-funded Foresight report, ‘Mental capital and wellbeing: making the most of ourselves in the 21st century’. It gathered the evidence on simple ways to a fulfilling life that just about anyone can do, irrespective of wealth or health. I added the ‘ers’ because they’re also fundamental to living well and slowing down the rust.

CLANGERS works not just as a model for living well, but also as a way of coping in adversity. When I interviewed patients and carers for a book about how to get the best from the NHS, it was striking how it fitted in with a successful model of patient engagement.

• Connect with the team treating you, and get to know them if you can. Know their names and something about them. It’s easier to ask questions when you know someone.

• Learn as much as you can about your illness, the treatment options, what you are entitled to, the standards of care you should be getting, what you can do to improve your odds and who to speak to if you have concerns.

• Be Active, both in the management of your illness and preventing further illness, be your own advocate when you can, have others to act for you when you can’t. The five portions of fun a day may be different to the ones you might enjoy when you’re well, but still try to have the energy for joy, warmth and purpose each day.

• Notice the good and bad in your care, and speak up if you have any questions or concerns. Notice the little acts of kindness that make illness bearable, and be thankful for them.

• Give back to the NHS and your carers by providing thanks and constructive feedback. Share vital information with other patients and carers. Get involved in research, service improvement and design and volunteering for your local NHS and charities.

• Eat well, Relax, Sleep – even more important when you’re ill.

The CLANGERS model equally applies to staff engagement and wellbeing. Health systems will always be high pressure places to work and so need to comprise of resilient organisations that support the mental health of the staff, encourage learning, are free from fear, bullying and blame and encourage everyone – patients, carers and staff alike – to speak up, feedback and continuously improve.

Ultimately, patients and carers must be handed as much control and responsibility as they want, and supported to live lives governed by their own goals and values, not the mass-produced end points of clinical trials. The best population evidence has to be combined with empathy for the individual. There is no single structure for healthcare provision that works in any context, and to continually seek the perfect structure in the NHS has proven to be hugely disruptive and disastrous for morale. Different models and structures will work in different parts of the country, but they must be built around common values and understanding of the needs of the individual. If each person can go about their daily CLANGERS, united by compassion, candour, competence and collaboration, then we can rediscover a values based service that is also effective and affordable.

Conclusion: competent, compassionate, cost-effective collaboration

In the 34 years since I first set foot on an NHS ward, I’ve lived through a dozen major structural reforms, more ideological than evidence-based, seldom embedded long enough to prove their worth before being uprooted by the next political vanity project. So I’m loathe to suggest any structural miracle pill for universal healthcare. Continuous evidence-based improvement is far more likely to work, raising the quality bar a little at a time, as resources allow. Consultations – or rather meetings between experts – must be long enough to be safe, effective, enjoyable and meaningful. Transparency and accountability must embrace innovation and learning from failure. The spirit of competent and compassionate collaboration must triumph over competition.

Patients and carers must have as much choice and control over their illnesses as they – and a fair system – can manage. Anyone must feel free to speak up and challenge, knowing their concerns will be acted on. Pure knowledge, like pure water, must be available to all who need it. Communities must promote health and meaningful work for all, and we should all be taught the skills of resilience from a young age. The healthy must accept responsibility for trying to remain so, and society must support them. Artificial divisions must melt away (self-care, healthcare and social care are all care). And all of this care must be prudent, and mindful of the cost for the planet and the payer. The minimum necessary intervention is usually the kindest and the least obstructive. We have but one wild and precious life, and we want healthcare to improve us, not imprison us. Release the joy of your inner CLANGERS.

Above all, we need Collaboration to solve the complex problems facing us. It was defined brilliantly by Margaret Heffernan in her book ‘A Bigger Prize

‘Innovative organizations thrive not because they breed superstars but because they cherish, nurture and support the vast range of talents, personalities and skills that true creativity requires. Collaboration is a habit of mind, solidified by routine and prepared on openness, generosity, rigour and patience. It requires precise and fearless communication, without status, awe or intimidation. Everyone must bring their best. And failure is part of the deal, an inevitable part of the process to be greeted with support, encouragement and faith. The safest hospitals are those where it’s easiest to acknowledge an error. The biggest prizes grow as they are shared.’

I believe politics would lead to much more progress if we adopted this constructive, collaborative scientific approach to all the great challenges of our time – Brexit, improving public health, reducing poverty, funding public services and pensions, caring for an older population, Global warming etc. I also believe we need experts rather than politicians overseeing their fields of expertise (education, pensions, health etc). The issues facing us are far too complex for politicians with little or no experience and damaging tribal loyalties to flit in and out of every few months. Time to put some grown-ups in charge.

August 12, 2016

NEW TOUR DATES 2016-2017
Filed under: Edinburgh Fringe 2016 — Dr. Phil @ 9:00 am

I’ll be touring both my current 4* Edinburgh shows – Life and Death (But Mainly Death) and Dr Phil’s NHS Revolution as a single show – Dr Phil’s Health Revolution. Confirmed dates so far are below. If you’d like to book the tour show, or half of it, please contact Warren Lakin at Lakin McCarthy Entertainment, 01359 230483

Reviews of the shows are here

For all other enquiries, please contact Shelley Devlin at the Richards Stone Partnership, 0207 497 0849

Venue date box office
Sheffield Memorial Hall 25-Oct-16 Online / 0114 278 9789
Winchester Science Centre 17-Nov-16 Online / 01962 891825
Mwldan, Cardigan 17-Jan-17 Online / 01239 621200
Wyeside Arts Centre, Builth Wells 18-Jan-17 Online / 01982 552 555
Roses Theatre, Tewkesbury 01-Feb-17 Online / 01684 295074
Chipping Norton Theatre 04-Feb-17 Online / 01608 642350
Bristol Tobacco Factory Theatres 05-Feb-17 Online / 0117 902 0344
Nottingham Lakeside Arts 09-Feb-17 Online / 0115 846 7777
Leicester Little Theatre 16-Feb-17 Online / 0116 255 1302
Norden Farm Centre for The Arts 23-Feb-17 Online / 01628 788997
Huntingdon Hall, Worcester 04-Mar-17 Online / 01905 611427
Leicester Square Theatre, London 06-Mar-17 Online / 020 7734 2222
Leicester Square Theatre, London 07-Mar-17 Online / 020 7734 2222
Komedia Bath 09-Mar-17 Online / 0845 293 8480
Theatre by the Lake, Keswick 11-Mar-17 Online / 017687 74411
Andover- The Lights 14-Mar-17 Online / 01264 368368
Oran Mor, Glasgow 21-Mar-17 Online / 0844 873 7353
Artrix, Bromsgrove 23-Mar-17 Online / 01527 577330
Acorn Arts Centre, Penzance 04-Apr-17 Online / 01726 879500
The Poly, Falmouth 05-Apr-17 Online / 01326 319461
Chapel Arts Centre, Calstock 06-Apr-17 Online / 01726 879500
Pound Arts Centre, Corsham 22-Apr-17 Online / 01249 701628
Berry Theatre, Hedge End 29-Apr-17 Online / 023 8065 2333
Hertford Theatre (comedy festival) 22-Jun-17 Online / 01992 531 500

August 11, 2016

Reviews of both Edinburgh Fringe Shows
Filed under: Edinburgh Fringe 2016 — Dr. Phil @ 6:59 pm

I’m doing two shows at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe, August 5-27

3.05 PM Life and Death (But Mainly Death) – on at 19.05 on Aug 21 only
10.05 PM Dr Phil’s NHS Revolution with Dr Margaret McCartney

Tickets  here   in advance, or walk up to @theSpace Venue 43 box office:
Symposium Hall, Hill Square (Off Nicolson Street), Edinburgh EH8 9DW
0131 5102385

Come and say hello after

Some very nice reviews below…

Dr Phil’s NHS Revolution ★★★★

Fest Magazine

By Si Hawkins

Published 09 August 2016

One wonders if Jeremy Hunt might send an incognito aide to see this show. If so, the awkward stooge should be easy to spot. This being an onstage revolution, there’s an awful lot of chanting – a hefty chunk of it directed at the health secretary. Although the rhyming couplets are more creative than you might expect.

If you weren’t particularly worried about the future of our healthcare system before this show, you definitely will be by the end of it. Practising doctor and popular comedian, journalist, radio presenter and medical sitcom-writer Dr Phil Hammond has been a high-profile campaigner since his junior doctor days in the early 1990s. But the NHS now faces its biggest crisis since then, hence this, his first return to Edinburgh in five years, and a passionate call for action.

In truth, most of his audience are on board already. Lots of health workers are in, and the constant chuntering of approval give this the feel of a rally as much as a show. Hammond is a fine rabble rouser—aided by guest Dr Margaret McCartney, who reveals some troubling stats about NHS wastage—and, unlike most politicians, he remains impressively positive throughout, despite the weighty issues.

To keep things light Hammond utilises slogan T-shirts, children’s toys, handy acronyms, those chants and singalongs; there’s even a nice shout-out to lefty children’s TV genius Oliver Postgate, whose ’60s show The Clangers surreptitiously suggested a more caring model for a modern utopia. The perfect health secretary if that ideal world ever happens? Dr Phil Hammond.

Dr Phil’s NHS Revolution Review


Stand up for the NHS: Margaret McCartney joins Phil Hammond on stage in Edinburgh

By Bryan Christie

Published 09 August 2016

Margaret McCartney, the Glasgow GP and columnist for The BMJ, made her Edinburgh Fringe Festival debut last week. She joined the doctor and comedian Phil Hammond in an hour long show urging the audience to form a popular movement to save the NHS from market mayhem.

Dr Phil’s NHS Revolution is a verbal Punch and Judy act. The villains are dishonest politicians, profiteering corporations, and market solutions. The heroes are striking junior doctors, Britain’s army of carers, and evidence based decision making.

McCartney heads the revolution’s Anti Bollocksology Unit, providing facts that people need to know about today’s NHS.

Hunt and homeopathy

It is not an hour that England’s health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, would much enjoy. His support in 2007 for a motion in parliament defending NHS homeopathic hospitals is highlighted as an example of his unfitness for the job. His use of questionable mortality statistics to justify his drive for a seven day NHS is another. Hammond combined these two in one of the best jokes of the night: “The statistics that come out of Jeremy Hunt’s mouth don’t have any trace of the original statistic in them.”

The Labour Party may have created the NHS, but it does not escape Hammond and McCartney’s anger. It was the same Labour Party that also introduced PFI—the private finance initiative or “pay for it indefinitely,” as they suggest it should be renamed. PFI will result in taxpayers being charged a total of £100bn in ongoing payments for the construction of £10bn worth of hospitals, they said.

Rants with references

McCartney treated the audience to some “rants with references.” One was, “We are treating more and more people at lower and lower risk for conditions they may never get in life.” This trend has led to the idea of pre-diabetes and pre-hypertension. What next, asked McCartney, pre-death?

“There isn’t enough rational debate about the NHS in the mainstream media,” McCartney told The BMJ when asked about her motivation to take to the stage this summer. “I’m worried that the reasons for the perilous state of the NHS aren’t getting fair hearings—it’s underfunded and, worse, we are wasting fortunes on non-evidence based, thought-up-in-the-bath, short term party political policy.

“What do we want? Evidence based policy making! When do we want it? After systematic review and independent cost effectiveness analysis!”

Although the subject matter could not have been more serious, the show’s bitter pill was coated with comedic sugar, contrasting the values of the NHS with the absurdity of much that goes on in its name.

“We have to pay for the NHS. We have to look after ourselves. We have to protest. If we don’t fight for the NHS now, we’re stuffed,” said Hammond in his final plea. The audience cheered, eager conscripts to the revolution.

“What do we want? Evidence based policy making! When do we want it? After systematic review and independent cost effectiveness analysis!”


Life and Death (But Mainly Death) ★★★★

Broadway Baby

by Timothy Leonine Tsang

Published 9th August 2016

In spite of the morbid title, Dr Phil Hammond’s stand-up show makes mischief of the macabre. I was already taken in when he tells the audience that those who have seen a play with ‘death’ in the title are statistically more likely to die (no correlation of course).

Laughter is thinned out tactfully to address a range of issues that include Jeremy Hunt and the state of mental health

Dr Phil’s act comes with a powerpoint. This set-up is not unfamiliar to the audience, who may have seen him before on Have I Got News For You and various media productions on the BBC. Though the majority of the viewers are more mature and elderly, there is no shortage of young viewers who, I’m sure, immensely enjoyed this show.

The entire routine is a narrative effort, as Dr Phil starts with his little known family history, tracing the past to explain his lifelong desire to work for the NHS and Private Eye. There are memorable wisecracks along the way about family dynamics, and about deaths to loved ones that are commemorated with a humour seldom flippant, but which shone with a hindsight that is particularly heartwarming.

It is rather rare for a comic to sustain momentum throughout, yet Dr Phil manages so by segueing into more worldly terrain later on, as he muses upon our society at large. Laughter is thinned out tactfully to address a range of issues that include Jeremy Hunt and the state of mental health in this country. Comedy makes way for tribute to a compassionate society.

Dr Phil delivers a hugely enjoyable hour of well-crafted stand-up, a welcome reprieve from other performers these days who dabble with too much at once. This veteran of the comic circuit revels in the poignant, and provides just the tonic for the aged.

Life and Death But Mainly Death


By Kate Saffin

Published August 12

Low Down

Dr Phil considers the deaths of two dads and his mum still gate vaulting in her eighties. And considers his own death asking is it possible not to kill yourself before your time, yet die gently when your time comes? Laugh, think about sanity and plan your exit.

Phil Hammond was an NHS GP for twenty years, has worked in sexual health and now works in a specialist NHS team for young people with chronic fatigue. He first appeared at the Fringe in 1990 as half of the junior doctor double-act Struck Off and Die, has been a Private Eye journalist, is an outspoken supporter of the junior doctors in their current dispute, appeared on numerous radio programmes and written several books. So an hour in his company promises to be interesting.

He starts by cheerily announcing that people who come to see his show are more likely to die. But then again 99% of people involved in car accidents are wearing shoes which doesn’t prove that wearing shoes causes car accidents…

He wants us to think about what we want, to be talking about death – not only because it makes life easier for those you leave behind but because it brings people closer together. That in his experience as a doctor people reaching the end of their life don’t regret what they haven’t done but the time they haven’t spent with their family and friends.

He then goes on to do just that, to talk about his life and family;  sharing highs and lows in a thoroughly disarming way. He may have spent much of his childhood in Australia but he has nailed our trademark self-deprecating British humour.

Experience of death came young for him with the death of his father when he was only seven. Amidst the humour he gives us an insight into grieving as a child; how children won’t always react in the way we think they should as though they are merely mini adults.

Back in England as a teenager he followed in his father’s footsteps in his interest in science and settled on a career in medicine – where he found discussing  death and the sharing of difficult diagnoses and news with patients was all too often absent. He touches on the very serious as well, using the example of the Bristol paediatric cardiac survey scandal to highlight the importance of openness and honesty when things do go wrong.

This is a thoroughly life affirming show, mostly about death, and one everyone should see. You will leave smiling… and thoughtful. And if that hasn’t convinced you; as a child he asked his father about the meaning of life… go just to hear the answer.



Life and Death (But Mainly Death) is also part of the festival within the festival Death on the Fringe featuring drama, comedy, spoken word, music and other events. It is part of the ongoing charity-led campaign, Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief, which works to promote more openness about death, dying and bereavement.


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