It is with my head spinning from the intensity of these past few weeks that I write to thank all those who have expressed their good wishes on my retirement, who have written messages, cards and letters or dropped in gifts. It is a seminal moment in my life and one which has brought to the surface the awareness of the nature of general practice.
Without getting mawkishly nostalgic it is nevertheless a good time to reflect.
Qualifying as a doctor with the energy and excitement of youth and the anticipation of years ahead, there was a naïve and as yet unformed impression of what medicine actually meant. Yes, it was about saving lives and heroic surgery, of curing the sick, but as I entered the profession the concept of what lay ahead was totally unformed.
Moving from hospitals to post graduate training in general practice was an unexpected shock. Gone were the supportive teams of seniors and plethora of tests and procedures and instead was the endless stream of unsorted vague problems which did not fit into the diagnostic niceties of outpatient clinics or wards. Yet, these problems were in real people, in real families not patients. These were people who were usually well and living full lives in their own community.
This conversion to a different type of medicine was immediate and intense. The ability to work within the freedom of a fast developing and advancing general practice of the 1980’s was so attractive and getting a job at the Red House in Radlett was the apotheosis of such opportunity.
So I arrived on 3rd November 1986, to four house calls before my morning surgery and an unexpected medical emergency interrupting my first ever surgery up in Shenley. Whilst on the subject of Shenley , working with an open house surgery never knowing how many patients were going to turn up – the only link with the outside world being a Bakerlite telephone, was a million miles away from the high tech computerised system we run today; even though I still miss Pat the housekeeper and Sophie the Yorkshire terrier who used to inspect the waiting room there.
Skip forward though all the years to 2017 and I realise the immense privilege that my career has given me. The memories, the words, the reflections, the young adults whose childhood memories were of jelly babies at the doctors. The sadness of families bereaved sometime multiply bereaved or of caring for those during their last phase of life contrasted with the joy of childbirth especially in those who have struggled with disease or infertility to bring new life and a new generation into this world. All of this overwhelms me. That I have been involved, instrumental, integral to so many of your lives and events in your lives is so humbling. Yet it allows me to look back with wonderment that I have, as many of you have written to highlight, t made a difference to your lives.
I have indeed been fortunate to take with me into retirement the realisation that I have had the ability and I repeat privilege, to affect the lives and embed myself in the memories of so many.
Yet what is so much more important is that those starting their career in General Practice or those who are considering or actively pursuing a career in medicine are able to realise that being a GP can be one of the most rewarding branches of the profession. I have come to realise that despite the eternal fight to keep one’s heads above water in bureaucratic quagmire that is the madly organised NHS , being a GP is undoubtedly the best job in the world.