‘I feel privileged to have helped families with their health problems with my work as a doctor’

I consider myself most fortunate to have worked at the same place for a third of a century, together with a skilled and dedicated team, writes Dr Jenny Stephenson.

Tuesday, 25th June 2019, 1:53 pm
Walkley House House in Sheffield in 1936

The special thing about working in general practice is that we build relationships with our patients and get to know them and their families well, walking with them through the ups and downs of life.

We are most privileged and at the same time, humbled. We keep up with the rapid pace of change in the NHS, and with the challenges it faces.

Upper Stannington c1920

Walkley House has always been in the hands of Doctors. It was built at the corner of Greenhow Street and South Road in 1870. The early Doctors were Public Health doctors, involved in vaccination programmes.

Following that a GP, Dr Wiseman ran his GP business there, but soon joined with other local Doctors in order to offer a wider, more efficient service, and share the onerous night duties.

Dr Denis Connolly founded the practice in 1930 and then returned to Eire in 1940, leaving in charge his brother Paddy Connolly and Drs Lahiff and Bryson (the latter serving in the Army).

Patients had to pay for their Doctor’s services. Some had a pay scheme through work but the poor could not always pay, and the Doctor reduced the amount, or they went without.

Walkley House in Sheffield

There followed Drs Bryson (son), Ridgwick and Ashmore twenty years later, then Dr Ledingham. These GPs pushed ahead with the new Practice developments, making the most of opportunities to offer new services to their patients.

Doctors Stephenson, Kitlowski, Fitzgerald and Hunter began work there in the late 1980’s and 1990’s and worked with many of the same staff we have today. Dr Stuart Oliver replaced Dr Ledingham in 2007. Drs Stephenson, Kitlowski and Hunter left the Practice in 2018 and 2016 after a combined 92 years’ of faithful service.

An established Practice therefore, as in times previous, is built on family-focussed service given by dedicated personnel and their team. This left Drs Kerry and Craig, Fitzgerald, Oliver and Bridge running the service in this same manner, with Drs Martin and McSeveny joining in 2018.

The expertise and dedication are sustained. Post WW2, the Practice needed to develop a Branch Surgery due to the increase in population.

It opened on Stanwood Road in Stannington in the mid 1950’s and moved up via Fairbarn Drive in the 1970s to its current position at Uppergate Road, Knowle Top in 1996 with a new build.

In the 1930’s there were very few active compounds available to make into medicines, so people died of infections like pneumonia which wouldn’t happen to that extent today Antibiotic Penicillin was developed in the early 1940’s, based on research which had been carried out under Professor Howard Florey in Sheffield.

The coming of clean water and an understanding of the causes of infectious diseases in late Victorian times, did a lot to improve the health of the general public, and GPs were at the forefront of delivering the new medicines and health care to the patients.

Walkley House became more organised in the mid 1960’s with the engagement of administrative staff, and well trained Nurses (working in the Practice itself and also in the community, initially referred to as District Nurses) who joined the team with their special skills.

The stable next to Walkley House was developed into a Community Pharmacy under the ownership of Tom and Sheila Shipstone, who supported the Walkley patients for many years, and the Pharmacy remains there (under Rowlands).

The Walkley House Practice now has over 11,000 patients and this is steadily increasing. A third of these live within the area of the Stannington branch site, so that the centre can offer services to a wide area.

The Practice won The Practice of the Year Award from the Regional Royal College of GPs in 2017 in acknowledgement of its teamwork and dedication.

Nowadays, GPs are having to meet the demands of an ageing population, higher demand and more specialised work, the need for investment and national difficulties in recruiting GPs.

It is a very demanding vocation, but one in which I feel very privileged and humbled to serve my fellows in this way, walking through their lives with them.

In fact a recent review article in the British Medical Journal (October 2018) shows that people who had continuity of care, from their own GP team, lived longer. This shows the irreplaceable value of General Practice as a frontline service for our people.