Northern Ireland

Retiring Glenarm GP says health service must change

Medical Centre sign
Image caption The Antrim Coast Medical Practice will now become a branch of another surgery

A County Antrim GP who is retiring after 50 years has said he believes the health service should be taken out of the hands of politicians.

Dr Benny Glover has worked in his one-man practice in Glenarm since 1966.

A replacement for the 78-year-old's practice could not be found so it will now become a branch of another GP's surgery.

The health department says services will now be available as a branch of the Medical Centre in Cushendall.

Image caption Dr Benny Glover is retiring after 50 years

While Dr Glover acknowledged that the health service needs to change, he said the input of politicians isn't at all helpful.

"It is used as a political football. Elections come and go and they make an input. But then nothing happens until the next election. Politicians need to stay out of it," he said.

Back in 1966 it was very difficult for a young GP to get his own practice.

While he originally intended to move on after a few years, he ended up settling down and building a life in the village.

The work was demanding but Dr Glover acknowledges the world was a very different place - and that the pace of life was slower.

"It was 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People came at all hours of the day and night but when I took the job I felt I was responsible for looking after them.

Image caption Back in 1966 it was very difficult for a young GP to get his own practice

"There were very few cars, only two phone boxes in the village - so people tended to turn up on your door step and your sleep was on edge all the time."

Changing times

The family doctor says he's seen a big change in patient demands and expectations over his fifty years in service. With his distinctive white hair and friendly smile he knows everyone by first name as he walks through Glenarm village.

"In 1966 the health service was relatively young and patients remembered having to pay for different things - so a lot of them took responsibility for their own health.

"Nowadays that doesn't happen and people don't accept they have a duty of look after themselves as much as the professionals."

He recalls how in the 1960s his patients who had been used to paying for treatment in the 1940s continued to pay him with eggs, tea and milk.

Looking to the bigger picture, Dr Glover's opinion is that the health service has to change.

"There should be a company set up whereby they make the decisions and it is not determined by votes or anything like that. Politicians should have no input about what goes on with regard to people's health."

No applications

When his post was officially advertised in November, not one application was received. Dr Glover admits it would be a big ask for a young doctor working on their own.

"The bureaucracy and responsibility means it would be very difficult for a single handed practitioner.

"For me things got easier over the years but for someone starting out it would be demanding."

A father of six, Dr Glover says he is looking forward to spending time with his wife and 10 grandchildren and having the odd lie-in.

Looking back

The energetic doctor laughs when he was asked if he always intended to work into his late seventies.

"I'm still trying to work that out - it just sort of happened."