Mr Ian Eyre-Brook hangs up his scalpel after 53 years in healthcare
For many years Mr Ian Eyre-Brook has been part of the furniture in Musgrove Park Hospital – in his roles as an upper GI surgeon, and in later years, as a colorectal surgeon.
Mr Eyre-Brook began his career as a student in Bristol in 1970, before spending a year in Newcastle. He completed most of his training in Sheffield as senior house officer, registrar, lecturer and senior registrar.
“Following a long spell up north, I made my way down to the southwest, via Gloucester, and I started at Musgrove Park Hospital in 1990 as a consultant,” he said. “I had a great welcome when I arrived!
“My wife is originally from Lancashire, so it took a bit of getting used to as we were so far away from her family, but we soon got the hang of it, and we have really enjoyed our lives down here.
“Back then we had only four general surgeons at Musgrove covering GI, breast and vascular care – a far cry from nowadays, where we have about eight colorectal and five upper GI surgeons.
“When I started work in Taunton, there was such a thing as a lunch break and I found that I learned so much from the older, more experienced, consultant colleagues during that lunch time.
“I have always found the interpersonal aspects of surgical care as stimulating as the more technical aspects. While the technical aspects of surgery have changed greatly, the essentials of communication with patients have remained the same.
“The major improvement that I have witnessed in my time in Taunton is the increased priority that is now given by all to good communication with patients.
“I feel that Musgrove has always been a nice hospital to work in, and my nursing and medical colleagues have been excellent throughout my time here. I have appreciated our management team, who I feel have shared the same goals as myself.
“I have been lucky to have had the support of good and very efficient secretaries, without whom I could not have managed a busy practice. I did my last clinic in Taunton with the same clinic nurse that I had for my first clinic…thank you Jenny!
“Although it may seem a bit of a cliché, I’ve always felt that my responsibility was to the whole community, rather than just the patient in front of me, particularly as we were a smaller rural hospital with a defined population to serve.
“I began my Musgrove career as an upper GI surgeon, dealing with all upper GI cancers, as well as with biliary disease. After 2000, upper GI cancer care was centralised in Bristol and I didn’t wish to move to Bristol, but did want to continue caring for patients with cancer, so, from that point on I did more colorectal surgery.
“Things have changed so much over the years with new technology coming into place – there certainly wasn’t such a thing as laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery when I started, so we had to teach ourselves.
“Surgery suddenly became as stressful as when I first started as a junior trainee. I can remember the first laparoscopic cholecystectomy that I performed in the hospital, as at the end of the operation the whole theatre team clapped.
“I was not sure whether this was to celebrate a revolution in gallstone management, or the end of a longer than usual procedure!
“I’ve enjoyed every aspect of my career and would find it difficult to pinpoint a real highlight, but one of the real positives for me was seeing a department that wasn’t always in the best place, coming together to become an exemplar at the hospital, which meant newer trainees tended to want to come to work with us permanently.
“Over the last few years, I’ve already started to prepare for retirement by going part time, but it’s still going to be a very big change.
“I think one of the things I’ll notice is not being able to access all the support that I’ve had before in the hospital. I have always learnt as much from our junior colleagues as I hope they have learnt from me.
“I will be continuing to do one session a week of remote work for the trust, for our non-site-specific rapid diagnostic clinic, but I will miss meeting so many people younger than myself on such a regular basis!
“I do a lot of gardening, bird watching and fishing in my spare time, so I’ll be doing a lot more of that now I’ve retired. I’m also chairman of our local resident’s association so that’ll keep me busy, not to mention looking after my grandchildren which I love doing!”
Dr Mike Walburn, medical director for Musgrove Park Hospital, said: “Mr Eyre-Brook has been a force of nature during his time as a consultant at MPH. He has demonstrated exemplary commitment to patient care and innovation of services.
“On a personal note, Ian has been a delight to work with professionally and I thank him for his friendship and support.”