Henry James EastesBMJ 2009; 338 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b2234 (Published 01 June 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b2234
- Peter Brunyate
Henry James Eastes died in December 2008 having given 70 years of his life to his patients and the community of Marshfield, the rural village where he spent all his professional life. This alone is not remarkable as many before him and since have done the same. However, he was archetypal of the general practitioner of his era who inherited the traditions of the past but lived through and developed the enormous changes in medicine that have taken general practice to the position it is in today.
Henry and his wife, Zeta, also a doctor, arrived in Marshfield in December 1939. The incumbent doctor had died and his widow was happy to sell the practice to the Eastes. The price included a house and dispensary that had been a doctor’s residence for the previous 80 years.
Consultations took place in the dispensary, a narrow corridor of a room with room for only two hard chairs for the patients to sit on while the doctor stood. Through a thin wall was the waiting room, which led out into the street. There was no facility for examining patients lying down. If one wished to do that they were sent home and visited later. Medicines for collection were left out in the waiting room, which was open 24 hours a day. Surgery hours were morning and evening with a let up on Saturday evenings and Sundays. However, the doctor was permanently on call (especially during the five years of the second world war) and holidays were rare. Telephones were not common as it was not a wealthy community so the doctor would be fetched by someone calling at the house to ring the bell or, at night, blow down the speaking tube which terminated in the …