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Newmarket's longest serving GP retires 45 years after taking up his first post

By Newsdesk Newmarket

Dr Simon Bailey bids farewell to a career which has spanned more than four decades
Dr Simon Bailey bids farewell to a career which has spanned more than four decades

Newmarket’s longest serving GP retired 45 years after taking up his first post in general practice which he described as his passion.

Dr Simon Bailey has been looking back at his long career and some of the changes that have taken place in general practice since 1973, when he joined a two-doctor surgery, serving 4,200 patients from the staff wing of a private house in Rayes Lane.

He said goodbye on Tuesday to colleagues at Orchard House Surgery, where he was instrumental in building a flourishing practice with six partners, four associate doctors and four fast-track student doctors operating out of purpose-built premises near the town centre.

In between was a 10-year stay from 1974-84 in a surgery on Exning Road, converted from a private house and since returned to one. Although patient numbers increased by only 1,300 in that time, the foundations were laid for future growth by the start of a practice team, including the first dispenser and the first practice nurse and the introduction of services including ante-natal clinics.

During those years, Dr Bailey and his partner Dr John Calvert were joined by two more doctors, Dr Dorothy Frost and Dr Judith McLaren, and the practice also took on its first trainee, Dr Jaggi Partha, who retired three years ago after long service as a GP in Soham.

The road from the surgery in Lincoln Lodge, the home of senior partner Dr Ian MacKenzie, who worked with Dr Calvert in premises which were only just big enough to include a part-time receptionist/dispenser, to Orchard House, serving 10,200 patients with a full team of nursing, reception, management, secretarial and dispensary staff, has been paved with dramatic changes.

Not least of these was the introduction of dedicated training for GPs. Dr Bailey gained a degree in physiology from University College, London, before going on to University College Hospital where he studied medicine, surgery and obstetrics. When he decided he wanted to be a GP it was just a matter of finding the right practice and starting work.

“It was 1981 before GPs had to do three years training broken up into six months general practice, 18 months in a hospital and then a final year in general practice” he said.

Orchard House itself owes its existence to another change, which began in the mid-1960s when the introduction of NHS loans to GP partnerships for building projects saw a rapid decline in smaller practices which were replaced with bigger multi-doctor surgeries and health clinics.

Alongside this has been a wide-ranging growth in the services offered. “We now deal with the follow-up treatment in, for example, cardiology, asthma and diabetes, all of which would previously have been done in hospital out-patient clinics,” said Dr Bailey.

As the number of GPs falls, the only way forward for the future is for practices to have people who work in-house as a team.

“As the number of GPs falls, the only way forward for the future is for practices to have people who work in-house as a team. There are a thousand fewer GPs than last year despite innovative attempts to attract people. They are finding it quite hard in medicine. There are not huge numbers who work to 65 and they are also working fewer hours. It is rare nowadays to have people going into general practice who work full time,” he added.

Colleagues at Newmarket's Orchard House surgery present Dr Bailey with a hand painted plate to mark his retirement
Colleagues at Newmarket's Orchard House surgery present Dr Bailey with a hand painted plate to mark his retirement

Dr Bailey believes that a far greater and much more demanding range of expertise is required of GPs than when he started out. “Drugs we use now were not heard of 40 years ago, especially in the fields of anti-depressives, immune therapies, arthritis and cardiology.

“People who had heart attacks were kept in hospital and just went down and down. Now they are given drugs for eight days, an angiogram and a stent and then it’s home and over to us. A few lifestyle adjustments and they are back to a normal life.

The area where most advances have been made during Dr Bailey’s career is that of mental health, particularly the treatment of depression. “When I started they were only just beginning to use amitriptyline for depression and some patients were still being prescribed amphetamines and barbiturates.

“There have since been huge advances with the development of drugs specifically designed to modify chemical pathways.

I feel very fortunate to have lived through such an exciting time

“I feel very fortunate to have lived through such an exciting time,” said Dr Bailey.

Alongside his own career, Dr Bailey has been closely involved in the training of new GPs, as well as those who have taken time out and wish to return, and doctors who are in the UK as refugees from other countries .

His 33 years as Newmarket Racecourses Medical Officer was marked by a special presentation during the recent Guineas meeting and, as chairman of the Livery Committee of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London, Dr Bailey was awarded the Freedom of London in 1996.

While he has described general practice as his passion, his love of music, particularly opera, runs it a very close second. He seldom misses productions at the Royal Opera House or Glyndebourne and is on the board of the Cambridge Handel Opera Company. A competent organist, he is also a singing member of Cambridge Philharmonic Society.

In long list of other interests and activities, Dr Bailey has been a Church Warden at St Mary’s Wood Ditton, a governor of Cheveley Primary School and an examiner for the British Red Cross. He is an active member of the Newmarket and District Antique and Collectors Club and a classic car enthusiast who keeps a 1990 Bentley Eight in regular use.

Dr Bailey and his wife Elizabeth, a retired neurologist, have two sons Timothy and Jonathan and a five-year-old granddaughter Harriet. They live where he started out on his life in Newmarket, in Lincoln Lodge which became the family’s home many years ago.

During his look back over the years, one particular statistic seemed to stand out as giving Dr Bailey particular satisfaction. “I once said that during my time here, I thought that life expectancy for our patients had probably increased by 10 years. That has subsequently been proved to be exactly the case for both men and women in Suffolk who do indeed live 10 years longer than 40 years ago - and those are 10 good years before life can become difficult.”

Now aged 74, he has decided it is time to go. His colleagues have said his knowledge, experience and enthusiasm have been great assets to the surgery which will be greatly


“But I’m sure they’ll do very well without me,” said Dr Bailey.


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