1.        Charity Begins - Christine Smith
2.        Obituary - Donald Black - Richard Horton
3.        In Many Respects - Reg Johnstone
4.        Retiring with an MI - Tim Wadsworth
5.        Alastair Miller's leaving do and Steve Booth's partial leaving do - Anon
6.        Medical Society visit to Avoncroft - Samantha and Paul Williams
7.        A Walk in the Woods - Gary Parsons
8.        Jim serves up a slice of tennis history - Mike Ward

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Charity begins……………..

Almshouses. What image does that conjure up? Picturesque thatched cottages? Victorian terraces? In fact, Kidderminster ’s alms houses are rather ordinary 1960s buildings, but they continue a tradition that stretches back over centuries.

The earliest almshouses were established by Sir Edward Blount’s will of 1630. His executors got off to a good start, building six houses near St Mary’s church at a cost of £100. The bequest, however, was £500, with the remaining money intended for land purchase to provide a maintenance income, but neither Sir Edward’s executors nor their heirs bought any land. They just enjoyed the use of the money for forty years, until the long arm of the Charity Commission caught up with them.

Sir Ralph Clare willed another six alms houses to the town in 1670. These were in Vicar St and sound quite up-market – ‘tenements with garden ground behind the same, extending down to the River Stour.’  Whitnell’s Alms was the third charity involved with alms houses. This poor-relief fund dates back to at least 1545, with a series of benefactors gifting money and rental income for the churchwardens to distribute to the poor. In 1684, Henry Higgins left four properties in Black Starr St (now Blackwell St ) for the trustees to house ‘poor honest people, such whom they should think well of.           

Alms houses are not exempt from the attentions of property developers and town planners. Sir Edward’s houses were subject to a compulsory purchase order when the canal was cut in 1770. They were valued at £315 and replaced by new houses in Rackfields, on land donated by Thomas Foley. These had a longer life; eventually being demolished in 1954, when adjacent slum clearance undermined their foundations. The houses in Vicar St were taken over by a wine merchant in 1829, and in exchange, he gave four houses in Church St and New St to the Clare charity. Henry Higgins’ alms houses were sold in 1868 for £146.19s.7d, and the remaining houses fell victim to the town planners when the ring road was built.

The three charities have merged to form the Clare Witnell and Blount charity, and the alms houses, now in Franche, consist of six bungalows in Clare Witnell Close and six flats in Blount House. The board of trustees has included a doctor for many years and I joined them in 1991, following in the footsteps of Hilary Boyle and Pat Campion. The flats and bungalows have no warden, so residents need to be independent, but the Trust does pay for the Lifeline phone system and the residents themselves form quite a close knit, supportive community. Vacancies only arise when a resident dies or has to move to a Nursing Home, but our advertisements often attract little response. Applicants have to be Kidderminster residents and ‘in need’, with the trustees interpreting this at their discretion. So, please spread the word. Tell your DNs and Health Advisors about us. Think of us when you are faced with a patient stuck in unsuitable housing or let down by the welfare state. Give me a call at Aylmer Lodge, and let’s make the best use of this ancient legacy.

Charity, after all, ought to begin at home.

Christine Smith

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Donald Kerr Black

1912 – 2005

MB ChB Edinburgh 1936; MRCOG 1949; MRCGP 1953; FRCGP 2002

After qualification in Edinburgh , Donald had a varied early career, temporarily interrupted by service in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve from 1939 – 1946, where he attained the rank of Lt Commander.  After working at the Royal Maternity Hospital in Belfast , he joined Dr Armstrong at his surgery in York Street , Stourport. 

The Practice slowly increased in both patient numbers and doctors.  Mike Tibbets replaced Dr Armstrong and then Joss Williams replaced him when the former emigrated to Canada in 1965. An additional partner, Janet Hughes joined in the late 60’s.  During this time, other doctors who worked with Donald, included John Ball and Jan Adams.

In 1972, Donald and his partners moved to their new surgery at the Health Centre in Worcester Street , Stourport, which was a welcome change from their cramped former premises. Donald continued to work full-time until a myocardial infarction in 1973 occasioned an admission to Kidderminster General Hospital .  Following this Donald reduced his hours within the practice, the partnership growing again in 1974 when Richard Horton arrived.  Donald finally retired in 1982 at the age of 70, although he was often to be seen for some years afterwards at the Post Graduate lunchtime meetings.

Donald had many hobbies, including philately, gardening and fishing, being an expert on casting a fly.  Predeceased by his wife Jean in 2004, Donald died following a cerebrovascular accident in June 2005.  He is survived by two daughters.

Throughout his life, Donald was a caring man and was respected by his peers and his patients alike.  It is difficult to sum up any one person’s life, especially when they have given so much to the local community, but the over- riding memory of friends, colleagues and patients will always be of a true Gentleman.

R.J.H. 2005

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 In many respects …………………….

Friday, February 20th., last year was a routine day, but, for me it was rather strange.

I finished my afternoon list with Mr. Divecha, with whom I had been working for  about 18 months. There being no other lists, that afternoon, most of the theatre colleagues whose company I had enjoyed for years, had gone home. I said 'Goodbye' to the theatre receptionist, who didn't know I was leaving, and walked away from 24 years  in Kidderminster .

Turning back to look at the remnants of Kidderminster General Hospital – the energetic, integrated and efficient hospital I had chosen to join in 1979, I could only marvel at the insanity and financial irresponsibility which had been visited upon the people of the district and for the total lack of accountability which should be borne, at least, by custodians of the public purse.

Since the Treatment Centre was opened I had been falling over colleagues in a miniscule area, with no walls for patient confidentiality, attempting to participate in the preoperative assessment, with surgeons, other anaesthetists and nurses of the patients belonging to four operating lists. To assuage our frustrations, we could look through a window, into the void which once contained four inpatient wards and marvel at the cathedral - like space. It struck me as impressive as the entrance to the Natural History Museum , wanting only for the skeleton of a dinosaur ( in the opinion of management, probably mine ). Patients had been heard to say, 'Just think what they could do with this space' !!! .

There was no way in which I could continue working in such an environment, knowing what Kidderminster General had once been. There was no way in which I could have continued major work at Redditch, with missing notes, cancelled operations (except being cancelled the night prior to surgery, they were not cancelled  at all. Silly me!) and patients admitted for surgery hours after the operating list had begun!  There was no way in which I could work with a management with which I was diametrically out of sympathy.

On hearing the news of my resignation, one colleague asked if the management was arranging a 'leaving do', considering I had been there for so long! I felt it was possible - but after I had gone. I had most enjoyable send-offs arranged by the Anaesthetics department and the Community Dental Service, which I greatly appreciated, but I regret that I was unable to bid a personal farewell to many of the colleagues within and outside the Hospital, with whom I had worked for so long. To these, I would like to say 'Thank you for a great time'

I am now working at Furness general, in Barrow, doing a 'proper' job with intensive care and major operating lists -living 15 minutes from work, in Ulverston, and 15 minutes from the shores of Windermere! Ulverston is a most entertaining town and the frequent festival weekends (flags, dance, music, Victoriana) makes me realise what Bewdley could achieve with coordinated approach.

Barrow has suffered an industrial decline, with the reduction in the shipyard activity, similar to the decline in Kidderminster 's carpet industry, but it lacks the communications network essential for major regeneration and there are many stigmata of an impoverished community - obesity, smoking, alcohol and drugs - as well as the choice between moving far afield for work or remaining unemployed.

At the hospital we have our problems with recruitment, notably in radiology, anaesthetics and cardiology - which is surprising considering the surrounding coast, countryside and the leisure activities they afford. We have started taking medical undergraduates from Liverpool and hope to receive anaesthetic trainees with the expansion of the upper G.I.T. surgery. It would be seriously naive to suppose that the grass is everywhere greener, but it is not half as brown as it was in Worcestershire when I left. I sincerely hope the people keep voting 'Health Concern'. They need to. I feel that I might have done more, but couldn't. Some others might have done more and didn't. I am convinced that Richard Taylor couldn't do more. His conservative style has enabled him to exert influence whilst retaining his dignity and credibility with other politicians and he has my greatest respect.

I thank you all for being the best of friends and work colleagues and I carry with me many good memories of Kidderminater General Hospital . It is a shame I didn't complete the 25 years, I might have been given a new mouse-mat.

Reg Johnstone

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Retiring with an MI

Last September I was coming up to 62 and after being part-time for 18 months or so, and really not finding it as congenial as I expected, I decided to call it a day and retire in the New Year. With three months to go the first symptom, a vague feeling of chest tightness, happened just as I was getting out of car. It went off in a few minutes and I forgot about it: but it did recur from time to time, not particularly on exertion, and not lasting more than 10 minutes. How could it be angina? I was an active 61 year old, not overweight, had not had a cigarette for 40 years, not diabetic (as far as I knew), mostly normotensive and I’d had my porridge every morning for 30 years. Just a few years previously I’d been up Kilimanjaro: very SOB over 15,000 ft, and I thought I was going to die – but no chest pain. The family history was a bit dodgy and my cholesterol had been about 7 but I was on a statin and my last reading had been 5 with a cholesterol/HDL ratio of less than 3. There couldn’t possibly be any IHD and anyway we were just about to go to Bermuda for Pauline’s 60th and an infarct was not on the agenda. Infarcts happened to patients, not to me.

While we were away the tightness happened from time to time almost always at rest. I was able to climb the steep slope from the sea to the house, the equivalent of about 4 or 5 flights of stairs, with no problem. There can’t be anything really wrong, I thought, perhaps it’s all in my head. Anyway Bermuda isn’t the best place to mention chest pain. Perhaps I’d get an ECG done when I got home just to make sure.

Back home (no problems on the flight!) and back to work with no symptoms for a couple of weeks. Then one Friday afternoon, when I don’t work, walking past Church Street Surgery to post some letters, the tightness came on a bit more severely but not enough to stop me posting my letters. I’d better get that ECG done, I thought (I am a patient at Church Street : perhaps not a good idea when a partner, but very convenient) so I went in to gate-crash the nurse’s clinic. She was seeing a patient of mine who I knew well and we chatted while she finished a dressing. She did the ECG. I’m not sure what I expected but looking at the print-out there it was: heavily sagging ST segments and a machine report of ischaemia. Better see a doctor, I thought, and was lucky to find our ECG expert available just at that time. I put the ECG in front of him and said “What do you think of that? It’s mine.” He took it very calmly and broke it to me gently. “You know what I’m going to suggest, don’t you?” he said. Here we go, I thought, and from then on the management of my chest symptoms improved considerably: it all started to happen- the usual routine: aspirin, ambulance, GTN spray, drip, in spite of the fact that the tightness was wearing off by then.  The ambulance man was the one who is always cheerful and talkative and this was not exactly how I felt at that moment. At Worcester I was seen by a reassuring Kidderminster physician and then, indeed, by the cardiologist. The verdict was unstable angina and off to Birmingham .

They were very good at the CCU in the QE; the usual routine for them but they did it very considerately and kindly. I decided that I had better just sit back and take what came. I was asked what I would like to be called. I have discovered from my other recent NHS experiences that you are usually called by the first name on your hospital folder, ‘Timothy’ in my case. This is generally used only by my family and close friends when they want to make a point.  We settled on ‘Tim’, but the male Filipino nurse who was usually assigned to me ended up calling me just ‘Doctor’. This same nurse, when it was time to go, showed me all my results, which was very thoughtful of him. The language in the office is Filipino at times. The nurses have the rather nice habit of saying ‘Goodnight’ and ‘Good morning’ to each of us when they come on and go off.

There are six beds in the CCU; one empty when I arrive and two empty when I go. A man from Malvern is next to me who shares his crossword.  He has a remarkable growth of dark hairs right on the end of his nose, and I notice the same growth, not quite so lush but developing nicely, on the nose of his son when he comes to visit. There is an old hand opposite who is diabetic and gets around pretty well on his two below knee prostheses, and a younger man, a Ronnie Barker look-alike, who between them keep up a banter which reminds me of Fletch and Co in Porridge. In fact I feel somewhat like the judge who gets banged up, but neither of them makes the crack about shouldn’t I know better than to end up in the CCU, or ‘doctor heal thyself’, for which I am grateful.

Various SHOs come round and I am told that though there has been some damage but that it is so minimal as to be undetectable. Angiography and stents are mentioned. The ECG is ok now it seems but shows ?LVH which rather alarms me. A portable CXR machine comes along – they couldn’t really think I was in heart failure, could they? Or perhaps it was for heart size. Do they really think I’m not fit enough to be taken to the Xray department? I don’t hear anything afterwards so I suppose it was ok.  At least no one has approached me with an insulin syringe so presumably my blood sugar is normal. . I ask the sister if I can go to the loo at the end of the next ward. She is seems very dubious about this and I guess it must be against the rules, but she says ok as long as I promise not to lock the door. It dawns on me that sudden adverse events sometimes happen on the CCU.

After the week-end a consultant-like figure came round, sat down, was very pleasant and read my notes. He said he could do me in a couple of days. I went into the office to ask who he was and was told it was the cardiologist but not the one whose name was over my bed. Angiography itself was no problem at all: the stuff they give you is wonderful. I can remember lots of apparatus but no faces or anybody doing anything. It turned out that three stents were put in. The cardiologist came round after and said that everything should be fine, to keep on taking the pills  (including atorvastatin 80mgs: no messing around there), and to take a few weeks off work.

After this, retirement seemed very timely. I went back to work for a month just to sort of ‘sign off’ but it has felt at times as though my retirement has been a kind of extended sick leave. Actually, because no one at the hospital said to me “Look, you’ve had an infarct”, I don’t really believe that I’ve had one even though I know the troponins were slightly up and I’ve seen the letters ‘NSTEMI’ on my discharge letter. What has been most convincing, I suppose, is that my critical illness insurance paid out without a quibble. I’m a patient now.


Tim Wadsworth

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Alistair Miller’s leaving

and Steve Booth’s partial leaving do.

I often wondered what high qualifications an individual needed to write for this worthy publication?  A degree in English  (or even an A level) perhaps?  An ability to spell or punctuate? Or just having read “Eats shoots and leaves”?  None of these apply here I am afraid.  The real qualification is apparently arriving at a KMS event at the same time as Hilary Boyle without a pre arranged excuse.  “Simon,” she says, “why don’t you just run off a few lines on tonight?” …..  “Me?” I say, “but I can’t because………” (a silence like my anatomy viva all over again).   Anyway here goes:  

An account of   the D’oscars:

The first thing to strike one was the wonderful selection of designer labels worn by all.  Some of the fabric alone must have cost £5 or even £10 and I did not see one man with odd socks on!   I even noted that Dr Dean Evans had made a fantastic effort to dress himself and was wearing a matching tie.  Wandering in past the poor souls waiting for the Primary Care Centre I have to admit to feeling slightly self conscious.  They have a 4 hour wait to see a doc and then, like London buses, 50 walk past at the same time -  all, however, dressed for the theatre.  But would it be a Midsummer Nights Dream or Macbeth?

The basic plan of feeding us all alcohol on an empty stomach worked a treat and everyone settled down with a sense of cheery anticipation for Alistair’s talk.  The talk itself was a fantastic recollection of Alistair’s life as a mountaineer.  It took in ascents on several nasty looking Himalayan mountains, 3 months on Everest nearly to the top,  and then off to Africa for a quick trip up Mt Kenya (steep and high with lots of rocks ) and Mt Kilimanjaro ( not so steep but even higher).  It finished with a stop off on the top of Mt McKinley in Alaska .  I think most of the audience were torn between a sense of envy at the places we saw and a feeling of relief we would never end up in such exposed parts of the world. 

Then it was time for the speeches and presentations.  Alistair got a lovely new bike and warm words from the KMS,  He also takes all our best wishes to Liverpool ( where he had best buy a lock for that bike ).  Steve has been given a lovely statue and also warm words, all the more warm as he starts work back in the trust next week,  thank goodness for that.  I am sure he won’t have many referrals or phone calls waiting for him? 

Like a good wedding there was plenty of food and cheer after the speeches and then it was time to say goodbye to the happy couple. I feel ill equipped to pass on everyone’s undoubted best wishes to both. But I would like to end with a note of personal thanks.  I have worked under both Steve and Alistair as an SHO and since, as a colleague in the community, and have never heard anything other than praise for either.  If their replacements are half as good we will all be very lucky.  So advice for those attending future KMS events if you see Hilary approaching you find something interesting to look at  in between your feet and memorise the phrase “I am about to go on a long holiday.”


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Medical Society

Visit to Avoncroft  

On Saturday 2nd July a visit to Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings had been arranged by the Society. The weather was good to us - it was a gloriously hot sunny day! There was a limited but enthusiastic turnout consisting of 6 adults and 12 children. Those of us who went had an enjoyable and informative trip. A guide had been arranged to show us around whom I think had to rapidly rewrite his erudite guided tour in favour of a more family orientated experience.

For those people who do not know of the museum, it has buildings dating from Tudor times (Merchant’s House) all the way through to the twentieth century (Prefab). Each building was originally somewhere else and the museum has rescued them and pieced them together.

The younger members of the group thoroughly enjoyed discovering the many buildings the museum has to offer. Especially, the earth closet (loo), telephone box collection (‘Tardis) and cell block (crèche!). After our trip around the buildings (and we certainly didn’t see them all due to our little ones becoming tired and hungry) we had a picnic on the grass and of course an ice cream.  It is well worth a visit and has much to offer adults and children alike.


Samantha and Paul Williams

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A Walk in the Woods!

Saturday the 4th of December was the first Saturday morning that GPs no longer had contractual responsibility for out of hours work. The participants of the last  medical society walk had agreed that this would be good time for a further outing. A small group of us met at the Duke William pub just opposite the Wyre Forest visitor’s centre. 

The Wyre Forest is one of Britain ’s largest surviving oak woodlands and a former Royal hunting forest. The vast majority of visitors to the Wyre forest rarely venture more than ½ mile from the visitor’s centre. Our aim was to explore areas off the main visitor routes.

The weather was slightly  damp but pleasant walking weather. We set off towards the hill at the end of the red walk and almost immediately turned off to less well known paths.  This took us into an area owned by English Nature. We walked through Ward’s Yard Coppice, past a small damned pond (often used by fishermen – they tell me they catch carp) on to Uncllys farm. Taking the road past Rankerland we eventaully turned towards Dowles Brook passing through the Wyre Forest Nature reserve. Crossing the old railway line some spotted  pekin and partridge bantams in the cottage garden.  We briefly touched on the National cycle network route 45 before heading back along a route used for family mountain biking. We had a brief stop for drinks in a clearing planted with some more unusual tree varieties and David Starkey had a welcome rest from carrying Duncan .  Arriving at the Duke William, having walked 6 miles, we had all had an enjoyable morning and were in time for a pint of Banks’s and a light lunch.


Gary Parsons

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Casual visitors to the Bewdley Lawn Tennis Club on Kidderminster Medical Society day might well have wondered if they had stumbled in on the latest episode of Dr Who.

For there was Stourport Health Centre’s Jim Paton brandishing a wooden racket clearly belonging to a bygone era. Had the good doctor travelled back in time to borrow dear old Fred Perry’s favourite Dunlop Maxply? Or perhaps it had been loaned to him by the All England Club Museum .

But no. This was Jim’s tried and trusted relic, which only his natural talent could pluck from the distant past and employ effortlessly in the present. As for the proliferation of today’s high-tech rackets, Jim has been happy to let them pass him by.  Just as well.  Arm him with a super modern graphite, and one shudders to think what havoc he might wreak on his opponents!

Jim’s philosophy is simple: why change a vintage racket when it works like a top class claret hitting the taste buds?  The only difference this year is that Jim had replaced the broken strings he played with last time out with the Medical Society.  As if broken strings were any handicap then.

Jim teamed up with Stourport Health Centre colleague Rachel Ward to form one of eight pairings on the day -  an ideal number, as it turned out, and the overall quality of tennis on display was in keeping with the high standards of our host club.

And it was good to see so many family combinations. Robert and Judith Emms fared well as a pair, as did Fiona Parsons in partnership with son James and Clive Prince with son Ben.  When Robert Emms retired on daughter-collecting duty, Paul Thompson proved more than a capable replacement partner.

The format gave each player four games with his or her allocated partner, and four against their opposite numbers.  This system made it all the more interesting, and it laid down as level a playing field as you could have wished for.

Alison Parry, a stroke artiste who made the game look so wonderfully easy, won the Ladies’ prize with an impressive tally of 31 points.  Alison’s partner Chris Gaits, who took his racket out of mothballs and floated the ball around like a butterfly, got 19 points. Well done the Society chairman!  Mike Ward, superbly and patiently partnered by Jane Perry, took the men’s honours with a total of 25.

York House supplied  two excellent partnerships, with Tim Chew and Dawn Turvey battling it out against Wendy Kingston and Simon Rumley. Apart from a brief shower that was cheerfully ignored by all, early in the proceedings, the weather played a blinder. So, too, did Jenny Frow and Rachel Ward in their work behind the scenes.

Many thanks to Jenny, host tennis club stalwart and former long-serving Bewdley Health Centre GP, who kept scores and generally maintained law and order on the courts!  And thanks to Rachel for organising a truly enjoyable event.  Roll on next year, Jim Paton’s wooden racket and all.


Mike Ward

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