Tuesday, 24 July 2012


      Although it’s 55 years ago I still remember the feeling of coming to Guy’s as exhilarating and a breath of fresh air after five years at a traditional English boarding school.    The first morning was hilarious, sitting in the large lecture theatre being welcomed I think by Roger Warrick the Anatomy Professor.    The poor man’s attempt at a serious introduction was ruinously interrupted by exploding fireworks, and his welcome address came to a speedy and undignified finish.      After this it was off to the dissection rooms, and the start of the Rite of Passage proper into the Guy’s medical fraternity.  

  There are so many different memories,  here are some that stand out in no particular order.    A friendly if hierarchical atmosphere pervaded the hospital with a strong sense of being present at the leading edge of medicine, with several larger than life characters on the hospital staff.      Some of the senior physicians still wore semi-formal morning dress!    The teaching was mostly good particularly from the Registrars, although I do recall having to try hard to stay awake during the ward rounds conducted by one Physician whose nickname was “Shifting Dullness.”     Then there was the impressive chauffeured hardware in the front car park which although unsaid, clearly confirmed where both the affluence and influence lay in our chosen profession.     By contrast the notice board in the corridor on the way to the Spit where there were adverts for cars priced between £5 and £20, mostly Austin 7’s, and in those days no MOT’S to worry about!    I remember clerking one memorable patient a rather tough looking character who was being admitted with what looked like a massive razor cut across his face and despite repeated questioning would only admit to “walking into a door”.     A very entertaining debate between Keith Simpson the formidable Home Office Pathologist and David Stafford-Clark an eminent Psychiatrist who enhanced his reputation presenting mental health topics on TV, both men polished performer’s and effortlessly able to score points off each other. 

    On a lighter note, a Hospital Xmas show, aided and abetted by Mike Crowe in which several of us dressed up as nurses and fuelled by a liberal supply of alcohol attempted to perform the cancan.    Illicit late suppers on the wards cooked by friendly nurses and then waiting shivering outside on the fire escape to escape detection while the night sister completed her rounds.    The Night Porters at the Front Lodge dutifully signing us in as Mr and Ms Mouse as we returned with our nurse friends late in the evening. The Nurses carol singing through the wards early on Xmas morning with their cloaks turned inside out showing red, and finally walking back to St Christopher’s hostel at night thro’ Bermondsey feeling quite safe and seeing very small children playing in the gutter happily cussing and swearing while their parents drank in the nearby local.  

     After leaving Guy’s in 1962 I had two enjoyable years at Pembury.    Then two years in Winchester via a Nuffield Scholarship for which I was interviewed by the Guy’s surgeon Grant Massie, and onto one of the first organised hospital-GP linked training schemes for a career in General Practice. I started in practice in Caversham near Reading in 1966 and stayed there until retiring in 2004.    Looking back it was a good time to be in General Practice and we were mostly masters of our own destiny;   latterly however I did grow a little cynical of the frequent reorganisations thrust upon us by successive governments all of which seemed to achieve very little. Aside from practice I was fortunate for many years to be involved on the educational side which involved GP Training, Tutoring, Course Organising and MAAG Chairing, I also spent several years examining for the RCGP in London and Edinburgh and was elected to College fellowship in 1978. Medical activities outside the practice included 20+ years of annual school ski trips tending to the mostly minor injuries of large numbers of Berkshire school children. 

In later years Cruise doctoring principally with the Swan Hellenic company , some time in a Mission Hospital in Arua, Uganda, and working with the Across organisation taking seriously ill patients on pilgrimages to Lourdes. Locally I have been involved with the Abbeyfield Society and was a founder member and first chairman of Reading Crossroads the charity which supports Carers. Since retiring from practice I have continued to work 1-2 days a week for the Tribunal/Appeals Service which has kept the brain ticking over and as an added bonus there is no ongoing clinical responsibility. It also means there is plenty of time left for travelling, tennis, golf, group walks and pub lunches in the nearby Chilterns/South Oxfordshire countryside and most important of all for our five lovely grandchildren.         Patrick Anderson.

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