GPs: When practice made perfect
26 January, 2017 — By John Gulliver
IF you look at it now you’d never think this was once the home of a busy, thriving practice of family doctors back in the post-war years.
Those were the years when a family practice was a place where doctors turned up every morning at around 9am, ran their surgery until noon – and then did something few, if any, GPs are able to do today They went out on their “visits” to their patients and, considering each doctor had a list of 2,000-3,000 patients, it meant they were on their visits for the rest of the day. And they would visit them by car – in those days, of course, there were no parking restrictions on the roads.
Mr Ryle was once a GP at the address that is now a thriving crêperie business
I listened with fascination as an elderly woman, once a family doctor at this building, No 112 Kentish Town Road, reminisced about the past. I had stirred her memories after I had asked her if she had known Anthony Ryle, one of the co-founders of the nearby Caversham group practice in Kentish Town, who died recently at 89.
Anthony Ryle became interested in mental health while working in Kentish Town and over the years became established as one of Britain’s leading psycho-therapists, a provider of a method of treatment known as cognitive analytic therapy (CAT). He served later as a consultant at various major hospitals and wrote many books expounding pioneering treatment.
One of his few non-medical books, Diary from the Edge (1940-44): A Wartime Adolescence, is worth a visit. The former occupant of No 112 Kentish Town Road remembered Anthony Ryle as an elegant, tall man who had set out, like so many doctors did in their post-war years, to create a “humane” family practice.
Today’s family practice is at the opposite end of the telescope. You cannot blame GPs. There are too few of them. And each one cannot spend more than 10 minutes, if they are lucky, with a patient.
The picture the elderly doctor painted isn’t simply of a by-gone age – it tells you what real family doctoring can be like if only greater respect was shown for the NHS and more money was spent on it.