Christopher Oliver Payne

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: (Published 31 March 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i1817
  1. Cathy Rhodes

Christopher Oliver Payne’s father was a music hall variety artist who had left school at 12; his mother was a shorthand typist. Chris was proud to be a scholarship boy at Dulwich College and became the first member of his family to attend university, where he met his future wife, Paddy. In 1962 he joined the Royal Air Force as a medical cadet, and from 1965 to 68 he worked at Changi Hospital in Singapore. He left the RAF as squadron leader. In 1971 the family moved to Iran with the Church Missionary Society, where Chris was physician in the Diocese of Iran’s Christian hospital in Shiraz. They spent seven happy and fulfilling years in Shiraz, and the family’s experiences in Iran and their friends in Farsi and English speaking church congregations became an enduring part of their lives. Time there was brought to an abrupt and sad end by the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

In 1980 Chris became a general practitioner at the Bermondsey Medical Mission, and in more than 24 years as a partner he was instrumental in developing it into a large training practice. He served on many NHS committees and was a director of community health services. In 1993 Chris spent a sabbatical as locum chief medical officer in the American Mission Hospital in Bahrain, accompanied by Paddy in a welcome return to the Middle East.

In retirement Chris was a school governor and developed his love of poetry as a tutor with the creative arts retreat movement, publishing his poetry collection Outbox from Inner Space. He ran a faith in action group at a drop-in centre for vulnerable adults in Deptford, encouraging members to express themselves in poetry and song. He relished time with his extended family, rejoicing in the arrival of each of his nine grandchildren.

As a prospective medical student I remember going on visits with my dad to Bermondsey homes, which included families living in appalling conditions. He was always courteous, kind, and welcomed by his patients, his dedication shown by regular nights on call, when he slept on a camp bed in the practice. His deep Christian faith informed all he did: when he died, a patient said: “He really cared.” A true family doctor, in his poem “At First Acquaintance” he wrote:

So now, it’s nearly over, after all the years

People who told me everything at first acquaintance

Two minutes after handshake . . . you started on your story.

. . . welcome, stranger, to the team, primarily of care.

He leaves Paddy, his wife of 52 years; four daughters: Cathy, Becky, Jodi, and Sophie; and nine grandchildren, one of whom is studying medicine, much to his delight.

General practitioner Bermondsey Medical Mission, London (b 1939; q King’s College London 1963; MRCP), died from lymphoma on 20 October 2015.

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