Rachel Clarke 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 book, Breathtaking (2021), is an account of working inside the NHS during the UK’s first wave of COVID-19.
Clarke studied Philosophy, politics and economics at the University of Oxford and worked as a broadcast journalist prior to her career in medicine. She produced and directed current affairs documentaries for Channel 4 and the BBC focusing on subjects such as Al Qaeda, the Gulf War and the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, otherwise known as the Second Congo War. At the age of 29, she began a medical degree at Oxford, graduating and beginning work as a junior doctor in 2009.
Clarke's campaigning began when the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, sought to impose a new contract upon junior doctors. She rose to prominence as a political campaigner in her opposition to the contract. She argued in print and on screen that imposition would irrevocably damage the NHS. In particular, she was concerned that doctors would be unable to maintain their compassion and empathy, the attributes that drew them in to the profession in the first place. Clarke was interviewed multiple times during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic in Spring 2020 and was a panellist on the BBC's Question Time on April 16.
Clarke has criticised the 'Clap for Tom' following the death of Captain Sir Tom Moore as a shallow gesture, saying: "I cannot clap when 100k like Capt Tom have died ... Capt Tom was inspirational. But clapping doesn't feel right to me amid the vastness of our death & grief. Nor will clapping protect others."
On Twitter in late September 2021, then Telegraph cartoonist Bob Moran suggested Clarke deserved to be "verbally abused" after she tweeted that she had endured such treatment by wearing a mask on public transport. In the exchange that followed, Clarke threatened to sue Moran for libel and accused him of inciting abuse. On 13 October 2021, Press Gazette reported The Telegraph had sacked Moran for his sustained targeting of Clarke on Twitter. Following reports Moran had been suspended from his job, he had apologised a week earlier.
Her debut book Your Life in My Hands: A Junior Doctor's Story (ISBN 1786064510, OCLC 985323602) was published by Metro Books in July 2017. The book covers her experiences working as a junior doctor on call, handling pain and trauma, NHS funding and the recruitment and retention of doctors and nurses, as well as her campaign against the UK Government's imposition of a contract on junior doctors. It was a Sunday Times best seller.
Her second book, Dear Life, a doctor's story of love and loss, (ISBN 1408712520) exploring end-of-life care, was published by Little, Brown in January 2020. It was long-listed for the 2020 Baillie Gifford Prize and short-listed for the 2020 Costa Book Awards. Robert MacFarlane described it as a remarkable book: "tender, funny, brave, heartfelt, radiant with love and life. It brought me often to laughter and - several times - to tears. It sings with joy and kindness".
Clarke’s book, Breathtaking: Inside the NHS in a Time of Pandemic, (ISBN 1408713780) was published by Little, Brown in January 2021. Based on her own experiences caring for patients with COVID-19, as well as interviews with colleagues, patients and their families, it reveals what life was like inside the NHS during the first wave of COVID-19 in the UK.
- Marsh, Henry (9 July 2017). "Book review: Your Life in My Hands: A Junior Doctor's Story by Rachel Clarke". The Times.
- 7019426[dead link] General Medical Council Medical Register
- Turan, Cyan (13 July 2017). "I'm a junior doctor, and your life is in my hands". Red. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
- Clarke, Rachel (10 October 2017). "I'm proud to be called a junior doctor. Titles are the least of our problems". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
- "Articles by Rachel Clarke". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
- "Articles by Rachel Clarke". The Independent. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
- @doctor_oxford (February 3, 2021). "I cannot clap when 100k like Capt Tom have died - all loved, all cherished, all leaving their families heartbroken. Capt Tom was inspirational. But clapping doesn't feel right to me amid the vastness of our death & grief. Nor will clapping protect others" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "Reverend apologises after calling Captain Tom Moore clap 'cult of white British nationalism'". The Independent. 4 February 2021. Retrieved 4 February 2021.
- Church, Edward (29 September 2021). "Fal uni alumnus says NHS doctor 'deserves to be verbally abused'". CornwallLive. Retrieved 13 October 2021.
- Tobitt, Charlotte (13 October 2021). "Telegraph sacks cartoonist Bob Moran over Twitter posts targeting NHS doctor". Press Gazette. Retrieved 13 October 2021.
- "Telegraph cartoonist apologises for saying Oxford NHS doctor deserved to be abused". Oxford Mail. 8 October 2021. Retrieved 13 October 2021.
- Hammond, Phil (29 July 2017). "Review: Your Life in My Hands: A Junior Doctor's Story by Rachel Clarke". The Times. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
- Cain, Sian (3 August 2017). "Rachel Clarke: 'Right Mr Hunt, you're coming with me'". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
- Hamilton, Chloe (18 July 2017). "'Every junior doctor knows another junior doctor who has either taken their own life or come very close'". I. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
- Kellaway, Kate (25 January 2020). "Review: Dear Life, a doctor's story of love and loss by Rachel Clarke". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 December 2020.