A GP who is retiring after serving the community for more than 30 years has said he is very proud of turning around his practice into a “great success”.

Dr Jim Rose is stepping down after being a GP at the Derrydown Clinic at St Mary Bourne since 2003. During his time, the practice merged with the Whitchurch Surgery to become the Two Rivers Medical Partnership and expanded its list of patients.

Jim said that the combined practice was his proudest achievement as a GP.

“It’s really quite innovative still in the way it delivers healthcare,” he said. “It’s been a great success.”

Jim first studied chemistry at the University of London before graduating in 1981. He said doing this degree prepared him for the rigours of medical school.

“I’d done a chemistry degree first so I’d got most of the socialising out of my system by the time I went to medical school!” he said.

He subsequently decided to become a medic, and said his time largely consisted of “working hard” as he self-funded his degree.

“I think it was probably easier then,” he said, “there were far more charitable organisations that would support you through medical school in those days, but I had to be self-funded in the first two years so most of my holidays were working doing odd jobs.

“Working in a candle factory was the most lucrative, I remember. It was five nights a week from 6pm until 8am and you earned £123 a week, and in 1984 that was an astronomical sum. There was no health and safety whatsoever.

“I left in the end when they got me making outdoor candles and you did it carrying liquid wax in copper kettles with the handles wrapped in rags from the huge vats and once the tins were filled and the wick was in and it had set, you then stuck a label on saying: ‘dangerous, poisonous vapour – do not burn indoors’. I thought I better not carrying on doing this!”

Whatever free time and money Jim had was spent on doing up a derelict house in Kings Cross, before he qualified as a doctor in 1986. He was then faced with a decision on what kind of doctor to become.

“I think the patient contact is what made me want to be a GP,” he said. “I worked in hospital, and I did research in pharmacology at Guy’s. I toyed with joining the pharmaceutical industry but wasn’t really that commercially minded, so then I trained to be a GP.

“The patient contact was fun and in general practice you cover everything, you don’t become super specialised in a tiny little thing. There’s always more things to learn. I was very lucky, and it’s a job I thoroughly recommend. I really enjoy it.”

After qualifying, Jim first became a GP at St Clements Surgery in Winchester, where he worked from 1990 until 2003. It was here he said he really began to appreciate the relationship between patient and doctor.

“I’ve been very lucky in the practice at St Clements,” he said. “There’s been continuity. You know your doctor who looks after you, and they know you and your family. Fortunately, throughout my career, that’s always happened, and at my first surgery patients were registered to a doctor who always saw them, so you got to know each other, which is really good. It’s good for patients and for doctors and the health service as you get quality care. There’s some research that shows patients are more likely to live longer and are less likely to need acute hospital beds, so there’s good reasons to have continuity.”

In 2003, he moved to the Derrydown Clinic in St Mary Bourne, where he took over as the sole practitioner following the departure of his colleague, something he found tough but rewarding.

“I was a single handed GP after Pat Basset left,” he said, “and it was really nice. It was a lot of work but it was great. It wasn’t sustainable in the long term, but it was really nice and I will always remember my office at Derrydown with a view of a lake. It’s got the best view for any doctor in the country, I think.”

However, given the small size of the surgery, there were issues in getting fresh blood into the practice.

“The problem for general practice for many years was the difficulty recruiting doctors,” Jim said, “and at Derrydown it was almost impossible. People didn’t want to join a single handed practice as they thought it was too risky.”

Instead, Jim and his team developed a patient-focused approach that involved giving nurses more power to circumvent the recruitment issues, with a focus on continuity and giving nurses a say in the running of the practice.

“The nurse practitioners were a new model,” he said. “We were turning them into essentially GPs, but not quite, because as nurses as we could recruit them and that got round the problem of recruiting doctors.

“That has been an incredible success, and it hinged on having the right culture and providing support from the GP to the nurse practitioners and supporting them daily. At the end of every surgery, we have a meeting and make sure we’re happy as a team. It’s worked very well, and we’ve gone from not being able to recruit GPs to people approaching us to join the practice now, and that’s great!”

Five years ago, the Derrydown Clinic was merged with the Whitchurch Surgery to form the Two Rivers Medical Partnership.

“We were in a position to make quite big changes,” said Jim, “and I was very lucky with my trainee, and nurse practitioner. We were able to take the model at Derrydown in a small team and scale it up when the two practices joined together.”

The team wanted to ensure that patients were put at the heart of the new surgery.

He said: “One of the principles of the merged practice was to allow the people on the ground to decide. The interaction between the medical professional and the patient is the most important, and the best people to make sure that works are the patients and clinicians, not a management organisation that is distant from them in ethos or distance.”

The practice was put under strain more recently, along with the rest of the NHS, as the Covid pandemic struck, and Jim says he’s “hugely impressed” with how everyone coped.

“The effort staff have putting in through the last year through Covid, which has been an incredible strain on people, is just awesome,” he said. “I’m just hugely impressed with the people I work with. The NHS, as an organisation, has coped incredibly with Covid and that’s due to the values of the staff that work in it. At my level of the practice, my staff are exhausted but they’ve done an incredible job and I’m very proud of them.”

How staff coped with Covid is one of his proudest achievements as a doctor, as well as the formation of the partnership itself.

“It’s really quite innovative still in the way it delivers healthcare,” Jim says. “It’s been a great success.”

Once he retires, he says he’ll miss being on the frontline of the surgery.

“I’ve got to know a lot of people over the past 35 years,” Jim says, “and you generally see the best of people as life can be tough, but you see them coping with things that are unsupportable and they manage. It’s just remarkable, and I’m quite honoured to know people like that.

“I shall also miss not doing new baby checks, that’s a joy.”

Jim plans to go sailing with a boat he has purchased for his retirement, and will sail around Scotland for a few months. However, don’t bid farewell to him too soon – he plans on returning in the future as a locum GP.