Intensive Care

Intensive Care is about how coronavirus emerged, spread across the world and changed all of our lives forever. But it’s not, perhaps, the story you expect.

Gavin Francis is a GP who works in both urban and rural communities, splitting his time between Edinburgh and the islands of Orkney. When the pandemic overwhelmed our society he saw how it affected every walk of life: the anxious teenager, the isolated care home resident, the struggling furloughed worker and homeless ex-prisoner, all united by their vulnerability in the face of a global disaster. And he saw how the true cost of the virus was measured not just in infections, or deaths, or ITU beds, but in the consequences of the measures taken against it.

In this deeply personal account of nine months spent caring for a society in crisis, Francis will take you from rural village streets to local clinics and communal city stairways. And in telling this story, he reveals others: of loneliness and hope, illness and recovery, and of what we can achieve when we care for each other.


There is much in this record of coping with Covid-19 that is disturbing, some that is alarming. Overall however the effect is different, even inspiring. I can’t recommend it too strongly. You will learn a lot from it, and you will find much more that is encouraging.

Allan Massie, The Scotsman

Well written, often entertaining and occasionally deeply moving; an unmissable account of a year we will all try too hard to forget.

Kate Saunders, The Times

Doctors like Francis, and the other health workers he describes, should be the ones to reflect on what’s best for the patient – having been there with them through the worst.

Anoosh Chakelian New Statesman

Francis’s beautifully written, thoughtful books can’t be recommended enough….Unlike many physicians who also write like angels Francis is never embittered or misanthropic – Intensive Care is rich in compassion, patience and humanity.

Richard Davenport-Hines, The Oldie

Francis comes across as a highly empathetic physician… already admired for his Adventures in Human Being and Shapeshifters, he is a wise, literate man whose compassion is grounded in realism.

Brian Morton, The Tablet

I admire Intensive Care very much – the way it rises to the challenge of writing-to-the-moment, the way it manages compassion without sentimentality, & shows a constant commitment to social justice without piety. Its message is oddly reassuring too – as if we will eventually make sense of this pandemic.

Sarah Moss

Intensive Care is one doctor’s beautifully written, easily read account of 2020. It reveals the sheer intensity of what the pandemic has been like for workers in the health and care sectors. Rich in detail, conscious of the long historical context of pandemics, it’s both humane and hopeful. A great read and an important record of our times.

James Robertson

Intensive Care is a marvellous book, superb…. absolutely the best account I’ve seen of the realities of living through last year. I loved it.

Iona Heath

Rachel Clarke and Gavin Francis, two of the very best doctor-writers to emerge within a rich new seam, spare us no pain in their compelling but tragic accounts… if the prime minister won’t treat us with respect and level with us, these doctors will… These superb books make clear that the revelation of this plague has been twofold: our hubris has been shattered, yet there remains a staggering human capacity for bravery, courage and endurance.
[reviewed with Rachel Clarke’s ‘Breathtaking’]

Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian

One of the most absorbing books – of any type – that I’ve had the pleasure to read… Although this is the story of a very dark time, it is full of warmth and decency. It is a book to be savoured. Beautiful things can emerge from desperate times; this book is one of those things.

Estelle Birdy, Irish Times

Francis deals words with devastating potency. With understated eloquence, he depicts the ravages of lockdown for the community he serves….. Ultimately, Intensive Care is less a hot take than an astute manifesto for what matters most in life, as well as in medicine.

Rachel Clarke, The Lancet