I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with Julia for a month short of 30 years, so it seems right that I write a few words in her honour. Julia had sailed through Guy’s Medical School landing plum professorial house jobs before training under John Fry, well known to aspiring GPs of my vintage for writing the key book of the time on General Practice.
She came to the practice as the village had expanded with new estates being developed such as the Ridgeway. Sandra Swan had been only the second female GP in the Reading area, but it was clear that Sandra, Joe Paton and Jeremy Dawson needed an extra pair of hands in the practice; especially as evidence based medicine had discovered in the 80s that at least 50% of patients were female, and often preferred a female doctor.
The job then placed different stresses on family life to now. Julia had to work 1 weekend in 4 on call. When Joe Paton retired and Mike Boyle joined us in 1990, the rota was changed so Julia could drop her weekend work, which was clearly a great boon to her work life balancing. When she was working her last weekend on call in March 1990, I remember thinking, lucky…doctor!
In the 1990s, Jeremy Lade set up REDDOC, a cooperative with GPs over West Berkshire covering the on call for all GP patients. Julia was the driving force for the other 3 of us to join REDDOC. I think Mike and I were more stuck in the mindset of expecting that the work of a GP was supposed to continue with the 24 hour commitment that it had always had. However, Julia was clearly right. As the workload of general practice has become progressively busier and more complex over the years, I would not be able to function with the regularly disturbed sleep of the on call system and subsequently, it would have been impossible to leave the surgery at 6.30 to go off to work until midnight on a Westcall shift.
Julia has always been the best at thinking how to face the challenge of implementing yet another new initiative thrust upon us, yet seeing the core parts needed to make it work, without getting bogged down in the detail. She is pragmatic, allowing time to see how things settle rather than micromanaging from the start. This has applied to her medicine; not over investigating, not over referring, but being prepared to wait and see. She has had a loyal following of patients who are happy to trust in her judgment and pragmatism. With very frail patients she can see where it is sensible to work with nature rather than against it.
She was responsible for a succession of building developments which saw the surgery grow from 2 consulting rooms, to what we have now.
With time Julia has become more and more skilled at dealing with the psychological problems of her patients. Her retirement will leave a number of her regular patients feeling bereft, missing her support, and will present challenges to the rest of us, trying to replace the irreplaceable.
She leaves Wargrave Surgery in an excellent position, with our patients saying we provide a service thought to be the most highly rated in West Berkshire, able to recruit keen and enthusiastic young partners such as Aimee and Dan, as well as excellent salaried doctors and nurses. Having seen the problems which face other practices, we are indeed fortunate!
We all wish Julia and Brian every happiness and safe navigation through all their exploits in their retirement, and we hope that the old fogies like Jim and me won’t mess it up!