Veteran Rhondda GP Dr Bob Baron has witnessed decades of change in the NHS during 37 years at his surgery in Tonypandy.
Now he has said his goodbyes to patients and staff at the St Andrews Surgery after announcing his retirement.
Patients were among many well-wishers to say farewell at a charity raffle and cake sale at the surgery which raised over £320 for the Welsh Hearts campaign to fund 100 public defibrillators across Rhondda Cynon Taf.
“There have been times when the work has been tiring but every day I walked away thinking that I achieved something worthwhile,” he said. “I have never regretted it, not for one minute.”
Dr Baron, 69, qualified at the Welsh National School of Medicine in Cardiff in 1972.
He worked in hospitals in North Wales, before moving to the East Glamorgan Hospital to gain experience in obstetrics, gynaecology and paediatrics.
After service in the RAF medical branch in St Athan and in Germany, he obtained Membership of the Royal College of GPs in 1978 and began work as a GP in Tonypandy on May 17 1979.
Dr Baron worked as police surgeon in the recession years of the 1980s and early 90s.
“It was hard times for the patients, many were made redundant, and the reaction to all that deprivation was dreadful. From 1992-97, I observed that heroin use went up by 1,000 per cent and stimulant drug use by more than 400 per cent not to mention magic mushrooms and glue sniffing.
“That was the reality up here. All the indices of deprivation: high stress levels, heavy drinking and smoking, over-eating, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.”
Dr Baron and Dr Rhiannon Llewellyn, his partner for 25 years, built the new premises at St Andrews Surgery, which was opened by Lord Tonypandy in 1994.
“In 1979 we had 4,000 patients. Now we have over 7,000 patients served by four doctors, four nurses, three Health Care Assistants and a full range of support and administrative staff.”
The practice was ahead of the game in creating computerised records, Lifestyle and Exercise Prescription, Rhondda GP on call Cooperative, Shared Care Drug and Alcohol Clinic, and Violent Patient Safe Haven. St Andrews was among the first practices to employ its own pharmacist, he said.
“We have moved from a limited and narrow approach to general practice.
“We are running a broad platform of clinics, from asthma to blood pressure, drug and alcohol, chest, heart disease, anticoagulant (INR), diabetes, and many more. We participate in research and developing new services. My three partners plan to teach young doctors and budding practice nurses in the near future.
“We have for some considerable time been up-skilling all our staff, which improves quality, adds value and staff satisfaction.”
The population of the Rhondda suffer more illness and long term disease than most of Wales.
“Places like the Rhondda have more opportunities for GPs to practise interesting and challenging high quality medicine,” he said. “If you go to the leafy suburbs you may find fewer people needing such help but there is real work to be done here in Rhondda.”
Dr Baron plans more cycling, canoeing, swimming and walking in retirement with his wife Jenny, their two grandchildren Olivia and Jack, and their English Pointer Poppy. As a dedicated ‘Petrol Head’, he sold his treasured Aston Martin sports car to buy a motor home and plans to travel with his wife of 47 years.
Treorchy GP David Miller said: “Dr Baron has been a tireless advocate for and innovator of primary care in the Rhondda Valley. More recently Bob has been a tremendous support and inspiration to the next generation who will take the cluster based future of Rhondda general practice forward and we all wish him well for this retirement.”