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A week in the life of a GP in 1963



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Dr Erl Annesley

Location: Keyworth, Nottingham, serving a rural and semi-rural population

List size: 6,000

Shifts worked: Two nights in the week. On call one weekend in four, working two nights in a row before Monday morning surgery.

Salary: £1,000 per year (around £19,000 today)

Work outfit: A suit with a stiff white collar and tie

Monday

The morning is busy enough without the midwife knocking on my consulting room door.

Mrs Smith on Mount Pleasant is 12 days overdue and hot baths and copious castor oil hadn’t done a thing. Do I not think we ought to induce her?

I groan inwardly. It is the last thing I need with the home visit list already at 20 for three doctors and a minor ops clinic in the afternoon.

When I get there the head is engaged, so I explained that we were going to rupture the waters to get her going. The midwife has already sterilised the long metal probe by boiling it up in a saucepan, so I don the rubber apron from my ‘midder bag’, sponge her down and slip the probe through the cervix. The membranes break as expected and the fore waters with them. The midwife stays with her while I go back to the surgery to collect the notes for my other visits.

As a junior partner, the surgery is attached to my house, so one of the receptionists makes me a cup of coffee in my kitchen while I write out the repeat prescriptions.

As my Austin A30 rattles back towards Mrs. Smith’s, I think again about changing it, but money is tight. I am only two years into my full time partnership contract, so I have to wait another five to get equal share of the practice income, but maybe I could borrow on that expectation.

Mrs Smith has second staged and was pushing well but eventually does need an episiotomy. She has a girl, crying loudly on arrival. She is our third home delivery in the last seven days – roll on the day when there will be enough hospital beds for all maternity cases.

Tuesday

For once this is a normal, no panic day. It consists of surgery, scripts, visits and an afternoon ante-natal clinic with the midwife.

Wednesday

The day is misty and damp and the surgery is packed with patients standing in my hall outside the waiting room. I am on call when a very distressed Anne Taylor rushes in to the surgery. Her boss at the local stables, Susan had gone out for a ride across the fields and the horse came back to the stables without her. Anne had found Susan lying in a field in great pain. Would someone come out to see to her?

It is very foggy with little visibility but as we trek across the fields we can hear Susan shouting directions. She is in great pain from her pelvis area and looking very shocked. But what to do? We are three fields across rough terrain in a thickening fog.

I give her a 15mg shot of morphine from my bag and set off for the nearest farm.

Luckily David Baker is in his yard and he hitches up a flatbed trailer to his tractor, piled with lots of straw and blankets to slowly carry Susan back to the lane to meet the ambulance I had sent for.

The patients in surgery were warned that I’d had to go out on an emergency and would be some time getting back. They all waited. As if they wouldn’t. We don’t have any appointments, patients just come to the surgery and wait to be seen.

Later in the day I ring the hospital. The horse had stumbled on a rabbit hole, fallen and rolled on Mary. She had a fractured pelvis but is now comfortable.

Thursday

After a very early surgery, I am off to Hollinwell to play golf with other GP friends. I have my usual healthy golf lunch of streaky bacon, egg and chips, followed by 18 holes of sheer joy in beautiful surroundings and good company, with a hole-in-one at the ninth. Who needs Mist Gent Alk as a tonic?

Later we meet friends at the local inn. Steak and chips for 12 shillings and sixpence (62 and a half pence) – an outrageously high price!

Friday

Senior partner Bill suggests we have practice meetings. It doesn’t go down well.

‘Who needs practice meetings?’ the others say, ‘We all chat over coffee and scripts each morning. Far better to find more patients, we could do with a boost in income. Why not open a branch surgery in one of the villages?’

I stay quiet. I’m the new boy. I need the money but what do I know? Tomorrow’s Saturday and it’s not my weekend on. Be thankful for small mercies.

Names have been changed