Dr Hairy's Training is an attempt to create training materials for GPs and Registrars in an engaging, unstuffy, non-academic and down-to-earth style, using humour and examples drawn from real-life general practice.
It's the brainchild of Dr David Hindmarsh, a GP from Kent, and his Practice Manager Julian Le Saux, also known as Edward Picot.
In 2007 they self-published their first book, Dr Hairy's Guide to the GP Curriculum. David was a Trainer and a Course Organiser at the time, and when the first version of the Curriculum came out he felt obliged to read it all the way through. It was so incredibly boring and difficult to digest that he soon had the idea of writing a much shorter and more approachable pocket guide.
When he was a boy, David was given a book called The Hairy Man's Guide to Cricket. It explained difficult aspects of the game like field-placings and the LBW law in straightforward terms that anybody could understand, and it had some jokes in it too. "I could write something like that about the Curriculum," thought David. "I'd probably make a fortune." So he sat down to give it a try.
His method of writing was to eat lots of snacks and drink lots of beer or wine. After a while even the lamest of jokes started to strike him as hilariously funny. His thinking got more and more diffuse and rambling, his nose got closer and closer to the sheet of paper, and in the end he would write a line of complete gobbledigook which went right off the page and up the side of his face until he fell asleep with the biro in his ear.
As a result of this method, after a period of several weeks, he was able to hand Julian the fruits of his labours: about six pages of manuscript. Fifty per cent of it was completely illegible thanks to a gluey impasto of biscuit-crumbs and dribble. The other fifty per cent was worse.
Yet it was from these cruddy fragments that Dr Hairy's Guide to the GP Curriculum eventually took shape. Cruelly, David's dreams of enormous wealth were never realised, partly because the book didn't sell in very great numbers, and partly because David himself fell victim to a strange compulsion to buy ten copies every now and then and give them all away for nothing. He gave one to the milkman. He gave one to the cleaner. He gave one to a dustman. He gave one to a little old lady he met in the High Street. He gave one to his dog. His dog chewed it a bit, then buried it in a corner of the garden. What a critic.
But although the book didn't make very much money, both David and Julian noticed something unusual about the little bit of money it did make. It was the sweetest money they'd ever earned. Whether the book was good or bad, and whether the amount they got from it was large or small, hardly seemed to matter. It was all their own work. They'd done it by themselves, without anybody else making them do it, and without anybody else helping them to do it either. And then other people - not many, but some - had actually seen fit to buy it. No big advertising campaigns. No mentions in the press. People had just found their way to the book under their own steam, and bought it. In a very small way, it was a kind of miracle.
Encouraged by this, David and Julian decided to take the Dr Hairy project further. In 2010 Julian started making Dr Hairy videos - short puppet-animations about the adventures and misadventures of a fictional GP.
The following year, Julian and David put together a Professional Development course for a small group of local doctors, using the Dr Hairy videos as teaching-aids, along with a number of reflective learning exercises that David had collected and developed through his work as a Trainer and Course Organiser. The Professional Development Course has re-run every year since then.
In January 2012 a book based on the professional development course was published by Scion Publishing - Professional Development for Appraisal and Revalidation: The Dr Hairy Workbook.
Simultaneously, David and Julian set up the Dr Hairy website (the one you're looking at now) and self-published Dr Hairy's Professional Development Course - a training-pack with much the same material in it as the Scion Publishing book, but designed for groups of about 12.
Scion Publishing submitted their version of the book to the BMA Book Awards, and to the astonishment of all concerned it won the Primary Care category in summer 2012.
In 2013 David started producing Dr Hairy's Research Summaries - monthly bundles of 10-12 research summaries, mostly based on articles published in the BMJ, each bundle accompanied by a humorous quiz about the summary contents.
In March 2014 Julian launched Dr Hairy's Online Training, built using the open-source educational software Moodle. The first online training course to be made available was a new version of Dr Hairy's Professional Development Course.
If you'd like to try out a section of Dr Hairy's Professional Development Course, to see how this actually works, the materials for Section 5 are all available online:
If you'd like any help putting together some reflective learning training, or you've got any remarks about our stuff, or you'd just like to tell us how wonderful you think we are, we'd be delighted to hear from you, and you can contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org .
If you'd like to see more of Edward Picot's creative work (because he does quite a lot of other stuff apart from Dr Hairy), take a look at http://edwardpicot.com.