The gypsy knew, of course. Paul Golik doesn’t know how the old lady knew but she correctly predicted that the young lad at the door of the house in Cannock would grow up to become a doctor.
Paul recalls: “I would have been quite young at the time and this lady was calling at houses, selling pegs and the like, and she told my mum I’d grow up to be a doctor.
“Of course, my mum just laughed it off. We were just your average working class family and, at the time, I’d showed no indication that I was destined for a career in medicine.”
But the gypsy was spot on and 50-odd years later Paul is now one of the longest-serving and most respected family doctors in Stoke-on-Trent.
Never one for the arts subjects, after leaving school he took chemistry, physics and biology at A-Level before moving on to study at Birmingham University.
He said: “Once you go down that route I guess you are only ever going to work in medicine or science.”
The year was 1975 and, having graduated at the age of 23, Paul began his training as a doctor.
Back then this involved spending two years in hospitals – in his case the old Royal Infirmary, as it was, up at Hartshill, and in Coventry.
He also spent a year training as a GP – working for a time with Dr Hugh Thomson in Trent Vale.
Paul remembers his first few months of meeting patients.
He said: “Of course you are a bit nervous but you just cope with it.
“Back then patient records were nowhere near as detailed as they are now. They were a bit of a nightmare, to be honest. They were kept in a Lloyd George envelope and were very messy and confused. You were lucky if they were in any sort of order.
“Prescriptions were taken down by receptionists at the time before repeat prescription cards came out.
“I suppose patient’s expectations weren’t as great as they are these days – and neither were doctors’ for that matter – which meant that in some ways the job was easier.”
On September 1, 1978, Paul joined the practice he has now been with for more than 34 years and which he now heads up.
Back then the surgery at Norton had just two consulting rooms. Nowadays there are seven at Norton and a further three at Endon – along with a bungalow which the practice has acquired for administrative purposes.
Paul said: “The basic kit a GP used in, let’s say, the early 1980s hasn’t really changed a great deal in 30 years.
“Things like the blood pressure monitor and the stethoscope still work on the same principles but some of the gear we have now is electronic instead.
“The biggest change is the way in which IT has transformed the NHS.
“From patient records to booking appointments – it is all much better organised that it used to be.
“In terms of the job itself, the hours are very similar but we did an awful lot more house calls at the start of my career. It wouldn’t have been unusual for a GP to make 20 home visits in a day whereas these days we make hardly any.
“This is because elderly people are generally much more mobile these days, more people have access to transport and we rarely visit poorly children in the home.
“It is, of course, much better to examine people in your surgery where the light is good and you have a proper couch rather than in their homes on sofas or in beds.”
Paul, who stepped down as secretary of North Staffordshire’s Local Medical Committee earlier this year, reckons the biggest problem doctors face in the modern era is bureaucracy.
He said: “These days I generally finish work around 6pm, rather than 7pm as it was, but sadly I spend a lot more time doing administrative work than I used to.
“For example, yesterday I visited a care home to give flu jabs to all the elderly residents. It will take me more time to update their records on the computer this afternoon than it did to actually administer the injections which seems a bit crazy.
“I’d say bureaucracy is a real issue. Like other professions GPs are now having to have appraisals – where another doctor checks that you’re doing a decent job. I can understand the thinking behind such things but you can’t help but feel that a lot of the red tape just takes you away from the real job of treating patients.”
Finally, I ask Paul how he spends his spare time.
The 60-year-old, who lives at Stanley, said: “I go to the gym and enjoy walking. I keep convincing myself I’m not old enough to play golf just yet.”
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