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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

I asked an 86-year-old patient today if she wears glasses. She replied "Only for driving", and then told me about her farm. That's pretty much been the story of my week. I feel like I'm living in an episode of Peak Practice.

Every year, for about three weeks, we hold clinics in Crawley Down, a small village halfway between Crawley and East Grinstead, which is populated by people too classy to live in either. Much like Handcross, which has a brand new two-storey health centre to serve the twenty-or-so people who live there, Crawley Down is home to a stunning state-of-the-art clinic where the GPs outnumber the patients by a ratio of about three to one. Or maybe it just seems that way.

Ironically, despite being the kind of place most healthcare professionals would love to work in, none of my colleagues want to go there because it's in the middle of nowhere, and an hour's drive away down winding country roads which flood at the slightest drop of rain. And which you have to negotiate in the dark on the way home.

So having done the first clinic of the year in Crawley Down last week, I agreed to go back there yesterday, and then again today. They're thinking of putting me on the permanent staff list. As it happens, it's a nice place to work. There's nothing to do at lunch time (unless you like sitting on a village green in December), but the GP in the room opposite makes me cups of tea, and the one down the corridor asked me to photograph his eyes. The receptionist even phones me if my patients turn up late. And as for the patients, you can tell they're classy because they all live at addresses without numbers.

The journey's quite interesting too. My route takes me past Worth Abbey, where they filmed the BBC Two series 'The Monastery', and through the village of Turners Hill which, according to Wikipedia (so believe it at your peril), is home to an expert from Antiques Roadshow and a member of Led Zeppelin. The main road also features an official tourist sign directing people to 'World of Water', which had me dreaming of a major theme park featuring log flumes, jet-skis and water slides. It turned out to be a pond shop. Frankly I'd only be interested if it had a 'u' in the middle of 'pond'.

Anyhoo, Crawley Down's all very civilised and genteel. But if you can't picture it, don't worry. They've lined the walls of the clinic's main corridor with pictures of the place, as drawn by the children of the local primary school. I particularly like this one, which hangs right outside my consulting room...

Somebody call a chiropractor.
It's a fine line between health centre and torture chamber.