Health column: We must appreciate today’s NHS

Staff at Stannington Medical Centre, left to right,  Alison Rayner, Tracey Dukes, Nicola Burke, Rita Perry, Julie Eastman and Ruth Garner.
Staff at Stannington Medical Centre, left to right, Alison Rayner, Tracey Dukes, Nicola Burke, Rita Perry, Julie Eastman and Ruth Garner.

Researching the history of the doctor’s surgery where I have been a GP for 33 years has made me very appreciative of the working environment we have today.

It is that working environment that has partly contributed to The Walkley House Medical Centre being awarded ‘Practice of the Year’ for Team Wellbeing by The Royal College of GPs of South Yorkshire and North Trent.

Three years ago, I became curious about the history of the medical centre, on Greenhow Street.

I had many questions. How did our practice come to be? Who started it? Why have we stayed as a cohesive group for so long? I decided to find out.

In doing so, I wrote a book on our history, which was published in 2015 and is on sale for local charities.

So far, we have raised over £6,000 for Diabetes UK, Alzheimer’s Society and Cavendish Cancer Care, and the book also won ‘Highly Commended’ for the Rose Prize in 2015.

To be able to write the book, I undertook a large project to interview patients and staff who contributed to the surgery over the years.

We were very fortunate that the 93-year-old son of the founder GP, Dr Denis Connolly, got in touch.

He gave valuable information about the early years. I found that Walkley House was built in 1870 and has always been owned by doctors. The early ones used to work from the premises as public vaccinators, and then the first GP, Dr Denis Connolly, started the practice in 1930.

I also interviewed people in the local area, asking them to share their memories of the practice and they proved to be a rich source of valuable information.

Each member of staff collected stories as the weeks went by. We had a fascinating time listening to patient stories from people who knew the practice and the doctors who worked there in the early days.

One patient felt her involvement had helped her to overcome her depression. Another, as he recounted his tale, said he hadn’t laughed so much in years.

I then interviewed our current staff and we learned about each others’ accounts of how our roles had changed. 

In the 1930s, the doctors managed without receptionists but with increasing numbers of patients and with the need for organisation, the team expanded.

We now care for 11,500 patients, and this number is rising. We have several of the same loyal staff who have worked with us for 20 years or more.

Looking back at the historical timeline of the surgery makes us appreciative of what we have today in terms of slick computer systems and excellent local hospitals.

As a team we feel very honoured to work in the NHS. I am now leaving the practice in April to work elsewhere and write at least another two books.

Copies of the book ‘The History of Walkley House Medical Centre’ can be bought for £5, from Walkley House Medical Centre and also from Stannington Medical Centre, Uppergate Road, and Beeches on South Road. All proceeds go to charity.