Richard Ashbee: Norwich GP held in the highest regard

A leading Norwich GP, Richard Ashbee, who has died peacefully aged 82, was highly regarded by patients and professional colleagues.

For about 40 years, he was in practice when general practitioners were expected to give almost 24-hour, seven-day-a-week care.

Christopher Richard Neville Ashbee, who lived at Sprowston, was known as Guy in the medical profession and Richard to his family and friends.

Born in Shenfield, Essex, he went to Brentwood School. When he completed his national service, he trained at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, and then moved to Norwich to further his studies.

On the tightest of budgets and living in basic digs, he would only allow himself one bar of an electric fire; supper in those days was typically half a can of Heinz vegetable soup and half a date pudding. Lacking a science background at school, having studied languages, English and history, medicine was a challenge but he won the Begley Prize at Bart's for effort.

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While his parents had moved to Bacton on the north Norfolk coast, in 1959 he joined a practice in Clark Road, Norwich, before it moved to new premises in nearby Lawson Road.

A former colleague Dr Jimmy Beveridge, who was a senior partner at the Magdalen Road practice, Norwich, described him as 'the rock' of the partnership. In the days when four GPs including Ronnie Scott and Tony Warburton were required to provide 24-hour cover for the 12,000 patients, he also looked after the practice finances. He was 'a old-fashioned thoroughly reliable GP of the old school,' he added.

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When GP were on duty around the clock, one Christmas morning he took 36 calls at home before midday! He retired aged 65 but within a year was back in harness as a locum until he was 70.

And a retired Norwich consultant, Alan Green, recalled that he was 'very knowledgeable, up to date, and knew when his patients needed hospital investigation and treatment. He was rarely wrong.'

'He wrote his letters by hand. They were all legible, concise and accurate in the need to explore and confirm his diagnosis which was invariably correct,' added Dr Green.

Outside the practice, he enjoyed archery and rashly promised to take up horse riding when he was 50, which he actually did and became quite proficient. He also enjoyed sailing, especially aboard Amaryllis, a pretty wooden half-decker at Barton Board.

Blessed with a lovely bass singing voice, he joined the choirs of Norwich School and Norwich High School for Girls, where his wife was a teacher.

Latterly, he joined the Reepham Singers, where his older brother Michael, who lives at Heydon, was active and especially in the annual Christmas Concert.

He leaves a widow, Margaret, and two children, Stephen and Jane. He is survived by an older brother, Michael, and three grandchildren, James, Harry and Georgia.

A service of thanksgiving will take place on Wednesday, May 25 at St Margaret's Church, Old Catton at 2.30pm.Michael Pollitt

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