In 1963 Lloyd’s Bank wanted to expand and terminated the lease. It was very difficult to find alternative accommodation, but eventually the practice was able to rent the first floor of Hanover House, further up the High Street. This had originally been an Elizabethan manor but a small part of this original building had been left when the rest of the property was rebuilt in late 19th century. The premises that the practice took, which had all originally been the bedrooms, were large and difficult to heat, and approached up a grand staircase. Below was a dental surgery. They were a great improvement, with hot and cold running water in each room, and space for a small laboratory. There was also room for a nurse to assist in minor procedures for the partners and treat patients of her own. At the same time an appointment system was introduced which made life a great deal easier for the partners. The patients were not always so sure about the changes.
The general practice service nationally was in a state of seemingly terminal decline in the early 1960’s. To counter this, the government introduced the General Practitioner’s Charter in 1966. There was an immediate increase in the services that could be offered to the patients and in the staff employed. The surgery was kept open from 9.00 am to 7.00 pm by a succession of receptionists. The partners were able to dictate all their letters to a couple of full time secretaries and nurses employed by the practice widened their expertise. It was not long before nurses, district midwives and health visitors employed by the local health authority became attached to the practice and worked from Hanover House.
All these changes coincided with the early years of John Hawkings (served 1963 – 1995) and John Ford (served 1965 – 1996). When these two arrived off duty was poor. Each partner had one half day a week, which started when you had finished your work after1.00pm. In winter this could well be at teatime. You were on duty again at 11.00pm. One partner worked each weekend and ran a Saturday evening surgery, whose most frequent attenders were patients getting off the bus outside Hanover House on their way to the cinema. The other Partners had from lunchtime on Saturday until 11.00pm on Sunday off. The junior partner was expected to do the work of a partner who was on holiday. You were expected to attend your own midwifery cases at all times unless out of the town on holiday. Babies were delivered at home, or at The Maternity Home in Tunbridge Wells. Only first babies, and mothers who had had previous difficult labours were booked for a hospital birth.
John Ford had an interest in psychiatry and worked as a clinical assistant in the Baltic Road Clinic in Tonbridge for eight years. He was also a founding member of the board which set up the local hospice service, now based at Pembury. Another great interest of his was medical history. This lead to him being appointed as medical historian to St Thomas’ Hospital and researching the history of the practice, which continues to this day.
Hanover House, although a great improvement on 121 High Street, was far from ideal. Patients found difficulty in parking their cars and in climbing the stairs. The practice was expanding in the number of patients and in the treatments that could be offered. The secretarial load enlarged alarmingly with the burgeoning paperwork of the National Health Service. So led by John Hawkings, the town was scoured for suitable premises that could be adapted to meet the needs for the foreseeable future, or for a plot of land on which to build. The only site that proved adequate was Warders, a large Victorian house that had previously been lived in by Bunting and Dewey. After conversion, it was opened as Warders Medical Centre in 1987.
Other changes were occurring. Out of hours work was shared with other local practices by TTDOC (Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells Doctors On Call) of which John Hawkings was a director during its formation. Continuing pressures on space led to the acquisition of a bungalow that was built in Dr Dewey’s garden, which became ‘Little Warders’, again under the guiding hand of John Hawkings.
The first female partner, Sue Allen was appointed in 1987 and the partnership continues to grow, there now being nine partners.
Other Partners in recent years have included Joella Christophers (1995-2000), John England (1975-2002) who continued the Practice traditions of Minor Surgery, Moya Love (1998-2004) and David Goodridge (1977-2008).
David Goodridge forged a strong career as a leader in local Medical Politics; becoming heavily involved with the Primary Care Group, and later its successor the Primary Care Trust. David also took up the baton from Dr West’s expertise in Epilepsy Syndromes. David worked in a collaboration with the Institute of Neurology at University College London which was to last 32 years overseeing a large-scale and long-lasting prospective cohort study known as the National General Practice Study in Epilepsy (NGPSE). This led to the publication of many noteworthy papers and David’s legacy in this regard is remarkable. More can be read about this in “Longitudinal cohort studies of the prognosis of epilepsy:contribution of the National General Practice Study of Epilepsy and other studies” – published by Brain, as well as “The contribution of British General Practice to our knowledge of epilepsy and its effects on people”. Goodridge DM, Shorvon SD. Br Med Bull. 2013 Oct 16.