Max Pemberton (doctor)

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This article is about the UK doctor and journalist. For the adventure/mystery novelist, see Max Pemberton.

Max Pemberton is a British medical doctor, journalist and author.[1] He works full-time as a psychiatrist in the National Health Service (NHS).[1] He is a weekly columnist for The Daily Mail, writing comment on news events concerning culture, social and ethical issues, the politics of health care and the NHS.[2] Prior to his move to the Daily Mail, he was a columnist for the Daily Telegraph.[3] He also writes a monthly column for Reader’s Digest and is a regular contributor to The Spectator. He is the editor of Spectator Health, a quarterly supplement from The Spectator.[4] He has also contributed to the The Mail on Sunday,[5][6] the Daily Mirror[7] and the Evening Standard.[8][9]

Background and early life[edit]

Pemberton was born and brought up in London.[10] His parents were initially resistant to him going to medical school due to concerns about the cost and wanted him to do an apprenticeship in a Mars bar factory instead.[11] They eventually relented on condition he agreed to fund his studies for himself. He therefore began his career in journalism while at medical school in order to support himself financially through his studies [11] 'I started working in journalism out of necessity. It was a way of earning money that was compatible with the time commitments of university. In the evenings I wrote magazine pieces, advertising copy, material for websites. I even wrote poems for the inside of birthday cards'[11]

He trained at University College London.[12] While at medical school he also completed a degree in Anthropology, for which he was awarded a first.[13] At the age of 23, just prior to graduating in medicine, he was given a column by the Telegraph after he wrote an unsolicited letter to the then editor, Charles Moore, with three sample columns.[11] He has said that he manages to fit in his writing with his medical career by never going on holiday and not having a television.[14]


He first started writing for The Daily Telegraph in August 2003. After the publication of his first book in 2008, the title of his column in The Daily Telegraph changed from Trust Me I'm A (Junior) Doctor to Finger On The Pulse.[15] He began writing more in response to news events. Later still, his column was relaunched in a more prominent position under simply ‘Max Pemberton’. His column is published every Monday.[16]

He is a staunch advocate for the NHS.[17] He is critical of the government’s introduction of PFI in the NHS[18] and opposes the introduction of the NHS patient record database.[19][20] He has also spoken out against the way the European Working Time Directive has been implemented by NHS trusts[21][22][23] and about MTAS and MMC.[24][25] He often writes about the rights of older people[26] and those with mental illness.[27][28] He is openly gay[29] and has written against the ban on gay people donating blood in the UK[30] and in support of gay adoption[31] and the impact of homophobic bullying[32] He has also written in support of gay marriage[33]

He has been critical of the adoption by NHS trusts of infection control policies such as ‘bare below the elbows’ which, he says, have no evidence to support them[34] and has criticised the Department of Health for ignoring reports suggesting that the biggest factor in reducing the spread of hospital infections is bed occupancy rate.[35][36][37] While being interviewed on the Today programme, he claimed that trusts were asking junior doctors to lie on monitoring forms and falsify the amount of hours they really worked. He quoted research conducted by the Royal College of Surgeons to support this which found that 50 per cent of all junior doctors reported being asked to lie about the hours they worked.[38]

He also wrote features and interviews for the Telegraph and provided the medical opinion for the weekly Spa Spy column.[39] He writes a short story for Reader’s Digest each month and has also written a variety of health related features and columns.[40][41]

In April 2015 he announced that after 12 years he was leaving the Telegraph and moving his column to the Daily Mail. His column is in the Saturday edition of the Daily Mail and focuses on mental health and social issues. He also writes widely throughout the paper on social, cultural and ethical issues, the politics of healthcare and the NHS.[2]


His first book, Trust Me I’m A (Junior) Doctor, published by Hodder and Stoughton, recounted his first year working as a doctor in the NHS and was based on his first year of columns for The Daily Telegraph.[42][43][44] It was serialised as book of the week on BBC Radio 4.[45] His second book Where Does It Hurt? details his time working in an outreach project for the homeless and people addicted to drugs.[46][47][48] His third book, The Doctor Will See You Now, was published in 2011 and is set in a hospital covering general medicine, A&E and dementia.[49] All his books feature the same set of characters, which he says are loosely based on his friends [14] He has also written one self-help book, How To Stop Smoking With CBT, published in January 2015.[50]


He has appeared on various current affairs programmes on television and radio. He was a frequent guest on Live with Gabby until it was axed in 2012.[51] More recently he has appeared as an investigative reporter for the Channel 4 series How Not To Get Old.[52] He also contributed to the accompanying book.[53] He was the script consultant of the ITV drama Marchlands and The Jury. He is a reporter on the BBC Radio 4 flagship health programme Inside Health.[54][55][56]


He has stated that is non partisan, adding that he prefers to assess political policies on their merits rather than allying with a political party and his column has both criticised and supported the main political parties at various times.[57][58] He describes his political leanings as libertarian although divulged that he voted liberal democrat in the 2010 general election because he ‘thought that the NHS would be safest in their hands.’[59] However, he has subsequently criticised them on their support for the NHS reform bill, saying of the liberal democrats that he ‘had failed to take into account the sweet allure of power, the heady top notes of which they have tasted since sipping at the poisoned chalice of coalition government.'[59]

He has been particularly critical of the Coalition government’s Health and Social Care Act, writing a series of articles in the Telegraph denouncing the plans for which he won the 2013 Medical Journalist Association Prize.[60]

Pen name[edit]

The name Max Pemberton was originally a nom de plume.[61] He explained the reason he initially chose to work in the media under a different name to the one he practiced medicine under was because: 'I want to make a clear distinction between being a writer and a journalist and being a doctor. I want to send out a signal to my patients that this is different, that I am a clinician'.[13] However, he said that he had become so used to being referred to by this name that he preferred it and that his partner called him by this name as well. After the GMC released guidelines on the use of pen names for doctors, Pemberton decided to legally change his name to his nom de plume and now practises under this name as a doctor as well.[62]

Personal life[edit]

Pemberton is openly gay.[10] He lives in the Barbican, London.[63] He is related to the Victorian novelist Max Pemberton.[64] As well as a degree in medicine, he also holds a first class honours degree in Anthropology. He is the patron of the charity CW Friend, which provides information and support to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans community in the Midlands.[65] He is also the patron of Epsom Mental Health Week.[66]


  • Royal College of Psychiatrists Morris Markowe Public Education Prize [67]
  • Royal College of Psychiatrists Public Educator of the Year Award 2010 [68]
  • Mind Journalist of the Year Award 2010 [69]
  • Medical Journalists Association Winter Awards 2012 Witty Writing Award [70]
  • Medical Journalists Association Winter Awards 2012 Interviewer of the Year (commendation) [70]
  • Medical Journalists Association Summer Awards 2013 Story of the Year Award [60]
  • Stonewall Journalist of the Year 2013 shortlisted [71]


  1. ^ a b Asprey, Donald (2010-06-02). "15 minutes with... The man behind Trust Me, I'm A (Junior) Doctor". BMJ Careers. Retrieved 8 October 2012. 
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^
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  5. ^ Dr Max Pemberton (28 February 2009). "Thousands of us pay more than £100 each year for health screening. Are we falling for a scan too far? | Mail Online". Daily Mail. UK. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  6. ^ Dr Max Pemberton (31 January 2009). "Love your tonsils – they're our first defence against illness | Mail Online". Daily Mail. UK. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  7. ^ "Dr Max Pemberton: Meow meow is legal so I tried it. But will banning every new drug really fix our drug problem?". Daily Mirror. UK. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  8. ^ "We still fail those who can't help themselves | News". Evening Standard. London. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  9. ^ "Blunders won't stop the great march of IVF | News". Evening Standard. London. 16 June 2009. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
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  15. ^ Health Advice. "Max Pemberton: Finger on the Pulse". Telegraph. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
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  17. ^ Health. "The NHS is sick, but is it terminal?". Telegraph. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  18. ^ Health Advice. "Finger on the pulse". Telegraph. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  19. ^ "R-UK Magazine Issue 2". 28 August 2008. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  20. ^ Max Pemberton. "The chaos of the NHS's electronic records". Telegraph. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  21. ^ "Health | Cap on junior doctor hours starts". BBC News. 1 August 2009. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  22. ^ Amanda Craig (2 August 2009). "NHS 'urging junior doctors to lie about hours to comply with EU laws' | Mail Online". Daily Mail. UK. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  23. ^ "BBC – Today – Today: Saturday 1 August 2009". BBC News. 1 August 2009. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  24. ^ Max, Dr (2 March 2007). "In my hospital, the staff are crying". Telegraph. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  25. ^ "I wouldn't trust this system to select someone to water my plants". Telegraph. 12 March 2007. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
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  28. ^ Health. "Finger on the Pulse". Telegraph. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  29. ^ "GaydarRadio". Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  30. ^ Men's Health. "Finger on the Pulse". Telegraph. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  31. ^ Health. "Trust me, I'm a junior doctor". Telegraph. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  32. ^ Health Advice. "Finger on the pulse". Telegraph. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
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  42. ^ "> Our Authors > Max Pemberton". Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  43. ^ Grew, Tony (14 July 2008). "INTERVIEW: Trust him, he's a junior doctor – from Pink News – all the latest gay news from the gay community". Pink News. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  44. ^ Katie Toms. "Review: Trust Me, I'm a (Junior) Doctor by Max Pemberton | Books | The Observer". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  45. ^ – 15:30 (23 February 2008). "Radio 4 Programmes – Book of the Week: Trust me, I'm a (Junior) Doctor". BBC. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  46. ^ "GaydarNation". Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  47. ^ Health. "Dr Max Pemberton: 'How many drug-addict grannies do you know?'". Telegraph. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  48. ^ "Radio 4 Programmes – Loose Ends, 20 February 2010". BBC. 20 February 2010. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
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  67. ^ Health. "Trust me, I'm a junior doctor: 'wish you were here!'". Telegraph. Retrieved 16 January 2012. 
  68. ^ "RCPsych Awards Winners 2010". Retrieved 9 June 2012. 
  69. ^ [1] Archived 14 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
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