Retiring GP's eminent medical pedigree

PUBLISHED: 13:39 28 August 2008 | UPDATED: 14:39 14 July 2010

BORN in Kenya into an eminent medical family, it was perhaps inevitable that Dr Gordon Manson-Bahr would become the fourth generation to enter the profession continuing a tradition dating back to Victorian times.

BORN in Kenya into an eminent medical family, it was perhaps inevitable that Dr Gordon Manson-Bahr would become the fourth generation to enter the profession continuing a tradition dating back to Victorian times.

His great grandfather discovered the cause of malaria in 1897 with Sir Ronald Ross, and was a consultant specialising in tropical diseases - as were his father and grandfather.

However, Dr Manson-Bahr chose a different course - opting to become a family GP, and is about to retire having spent the past 32 years caring for patients at Long Stratton, where he is senior partner at the village medical centre.

“There was no pressure on me to go into medicine but it seemed quite a good option because one knew what it was all about.

“My great grandfather also founded the London School of Medicine and wrote a text book on tropical medicines, and my grandfather and father took it on. We lived abroad but I was sent to school in England. We arrived with a little label round our necks like a piece of luggage,” he recalled.

“I am the first GP in the family, and I came here to Norfolk and this practice in 1976, when I was 30. It was a very difficult time with economic crisis and inflation at 25 per cent. I wanted to be in a rural area and one that was near a nice cathedral city and it's like anything in life, you choose the job based on the partners and the facilities.

“It was the first health centre in Norfolk, built in 1972, and it was very trendy - all purple, blue and orange with lots of plastic seats, and cost £35,000. We had 5,000 patients between three doctors, and we now have 9,000 between five, and this health centre was £1.4m.

“We used to take the telephone home with us when we went to lunch, and have the calls switched over to our house. There was lots of visiting because there were less cars, and you were expected to pop in and have tea with old ladies. Looking back on it, it was a bit strange!”

Dr Manson-Bahr regards the “personal list system” operated at the medical centre as one of its strengths, as it means continuity for both the patient - who sees the same doctor each time - and the GP. And he is concerned that the government is keen to introduce a generic referral system which is much more impersonal.

“There have been six reorganisations of the NHS in my lifetime and they are increasing in frequency, and the managers go and come. One of the things that is consistent is the patients and doctors giving the care,” he said.

During his career, which included 22 years part-time work as a clinical assistant (radiology) at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, he has seen great strides made in medical treatments and the range of facilities that modern surgeries can provide. And he believes that patients get a “much better deal” than in the early days.

“We took five years to get the funding for this health centre and it's been a great success. We now teach medical students here and do operations - removing lumps and bumps. We have got such a good staff, they are fantastic.

“We used to treat a lot of people at home and it was hit and miss, it was what you thought at the time. The new system with computers is more accurate, and I think it means better care because you are more up to date,” he explained.

The practice hosted a leaving party for Dr Manson-Bahr earlier this month. He will be retiring in four weeks time although he has no intention of leaving the area.

“I enjoyed being a country doctor and looking after the patients and the friendly relationships. They have been fantastic and when my wife was ill they were very caring. I am planning to stay in Norfolk, I like Norfolk and I enjoy the good facilities, and I like the skies,” he added.

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