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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 December 2005, 23:48 GMT
GP going strong after 57 years
By Jane Elliott
BBC News health reporter

Dr Alan Merson
Dr Merson has been in the same job for 57 years
Dr Alan Merson never wanted to become a doctor, but with 57 years working in the same practice he is now thought to be the UK's longest serving GP.

The 83-year-old followed his father into medicine and qualified in 1948 - just months before the NHS was born.

He took up a post in his father's practice in Dewsbury, where he still works today.

But Dr Merson says a career in medicine was not always what his family had planned for him.

"My older brother was destined to become a doctor and my mother had got me an apprenticeship at Rolls Royce.

"My brother did not fancy medicine though.

"My father said I could then go into medicine, but I didn't fancy cutting people up.

"Then he said that if I studied medicine he would buy me a car so I could get to lectures at Leeds University and that was that."

The octogenarian says it is his love of the job and rapport with patients that has kept him going

And despite his age, he will not be considering retirement for a few years yet, he says.

I like working and I like the patients and while I am not putting any one at risk I will keep working
Dr Alan Merson

Over nearly six decades, Dr Merson build up a close relationship with his patients.

It is this personal contact he feels is lacking in many larger practices.

He says he knows all his patients and can talk to them about their problems, ask after their families and extended families, helping build a warm bond.

"The old patients come in and often when I say there is nothing wrong with them they will give me a kiss on the cheeks.

"I have one old lady who is 93 and she really is a dear old thing. She was a patient of my father's.

'Tick box medicine'

"It is surprising how many people come in and say 'I have heard you are retiring and I say not for two or three years yet. They then say don't retire until after I die", he said.

However, sixteen years ago, Dr Merson did retire from his 3,000 patient practice.

But after just two months of leisure he was keen to get back at the helm.

He now does three sessions a week at the Mountain Road Practice. And when his full-time partner is away on courses, Dr Merson often finds himself covering.

"At 83, I consider I am still reasonably fit."

"I like working and I like the patients and while I am not putting any one at risk I will keep working," he added.


Dr Merson is full of praise for medical advances, such as the arrival of hip replacements, while he has been in post.

He says however, that he feels the art of medicine has taken a retrograde step.

"I am going to be rude and say that it has become tick box medicine.

"You ask them if their cholesterol is up and whether they have diabetes and if they have you tick the box and say these are the medicines you need.

The advances in medical science are terrific, but as far as talking to the patients are concerned they are not
Dr Alan Merson

"I just deal with the patients and talk to them."

He said that when female patients used to come to him worried about the menopause, he used to talk them through the changes and reassure them that they would pass.

Then he was advised to prescribe them HRT. But now the use of this is being questioned because of possible links with increased instances of cancer.

"You find that everything goes round in circles.

"I was always told that medicine was an art and a science. When I first started it was more of an art than a science. Now it is more of a science than an art.

"We don't have the freedom that we used to, but now they are talking about it becoming a patient-led NHS and doctors I have heard are being sent on courses to learn bedside manners.


"Basically the advances in medical science are terrific, but as far as talking to the patients are concerned they are not.

"If I get a patient in who has osteoporosis I will get out a text-book and show her what her bones look like and why they break. I think the patients like to have things explained like this."

He blames too much government interference for many of the profession's problems.

"The government are telling us to do this and that."

He said a prime example is the 48-hour wait, where patients can get an appointment with a GP within two days.

He said this had been introduced because of government rules, now that is being reconsidered.

"I am glad that I am at this end of my life, rather than just starting out."

But as he starts to consider retirement Dr Merson says he is already lining himself up another career.

"When I do retire. When I am about 86, I will be looking for another job. My sister-in-law has asked if I consider working for her as a driver."

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