1950s

A visit to the doctor

By Philip Burnard

An ominous business

Seeing the doctor was always an ominous business. You went with a slight fear of something being terribly wrong with you and you had a seemingly inbuilt fear of doctors. The fear induced by doctors was something about control. It also meant that patients did not question what was being offered. Fortunately, today, doctors have become far more normal. 

Remembering your place

As a child and a teen, my GP had a practice on the ground floor of a two storey house, up the road from the Open Market. We used to walk there from Belton Road in the Roundhill part of the town. Patients sat in the waiting room in chairs placed around the walls. All you ever heard from them was slight and nervous coughing. Each person had to remember their place in the queue by constantly monitoring who had seen the doctor and who had entered the waiting room.

Do you remember the old system? Think it is better today? Please post a comment below

Greeted by silence

When the doctor wanted to see the next patient, he - almost silently - opened the door to his room by about half an inch. By the time you got in, he was sitting, silently, at his desk and looking down at the top of it. He said nothing and didn't seem at all interested in who you were or what you wanted. By the silence, he forced you to tell him your symptoms.

Universal prescription

Almost before you were finished, he was writing on his prescription pad and when you had finished he said, 'take these, three times a day.' He had two other options: 'take these twice a day' and 'take these four times a day'. When you had finished, you left through another door. My aunt Eunice used to say, 'Dr Fisher is such a good doctor'.  I wasn't so sure. 

This page was added on 17/01/2016.
Comments about this page

Well, you were better off than me, Phillip. My first doctor was a cocaine addict back in the '40s, and ended up in Wormwood Scrubs prison for dealing. It takes all sorts!

By Stefan Bremner-Morris (18/01/2016)

I think all sorts would have caused your doctor far less harm, Stefan. I used to like the coconut ones. I had a rather different experience to you, Phillip. Our doctor's patients feared the receptionist far more than the reasonably pleasant doctor.

By Alan Hobden (18/01/2016)

Well, Stephan, Wormwood Scrubs isn't such a bad place and I am sure your doctor enjoyed it. Ah, the gate keeper, Alan!  I can't remember our doctor ever having a receptionist. Given that he never seemed to write anything down and that you couldn't book an appointment, perhaps he didn't have one. 

By Philip Burnard (19/01/2016)

My apologies for misspelling your name, Stefan. It must have been the thoughts of Wormwood Scrubs and Allsorts, that distracted me. Having reviewed the piece I wrote about my GP, I remembered that a feature of GP training was (and might still be) that the doctor should remain silent for a minute or two, in order to let the patient bring up the topic of what he/she was there for. On the other hand, my doctor seemed to stay silent throughout the consultation. He was a nice man; nobody liked him.  

By Philip Burnard (20/01/2016)

My GP was Dr Myers in Cannon Street (now car parks behind West Street). I remember his consulting room - it seemed large/ dark and very gloomy to a child .I was pushed there in a pram with my twin being very sick in the late 1950's -next thing I know we were at Foredown Hospital with gastro-enteritis. Horrible experience .I also remember having my polio vaccination there. If my memory is correct his daughter became receptionist at the surgery(very stern) and stayed with the practice  when it moved to the Seven Dials.

By Belinda Lumsden (29/01/2016)

We went to see Dr. Rogers or Dr. Coe who had their practice in St. Peter's Place. They were always kindness itself and we were very lucky to have them as our family doctors. I always remember the smell of the medical instruments being sterilised by a blonde nurse in a white uniform. We used to sit in the waiting room and always counted the people before us so we knew when it was our 'turn'.

By Pat Salmon (23/02/2016)

Hi Belinda my family were all treated by Dr Myers,although he could be very blunt and to the point he had an ability to get things done for his patients and could convey the real family doctor atmosphere. If my memory serves me rightly he was also a local Coroner and Police Doctor.

By John Wignall (05/05/2016)

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