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BMJ. 2007 November 3; 335(7626): 943.
PMCID: PMC2048885

Anthony John Membrey

Tony was born in 1932 just outside Johannesburg in South Africa. After his father's untimely death in 1944 he travelled back to England, and during the voyage peace was announced.

Tony went to Westminster School in 1945, where he excelled, gaining a junior science scholarship to study medicine at Guy's Hospital Medical School in 1950, qualifying in 1955. Between 1956 and 1958, Tony did his national service in the Royal Army Medical Corps as a medical officer to the First Malta Artillery Regiment.

In 1959 Tony moved to Tunbridge Wells with his new wife, Priscilla Atkinson. He took up general practice with enthusiasm and joined a local general practitioner working out of his two front rooms at Kingswood Birches. In the 1960s, long before it became an accepted idea, he designed and had constructed with his partners the first purpose built general practice premises in Tunbridge Wells. This provided accommodation not only for doctors but for nurses, health visitors, and midwives too. This understanding of the interdependence of the different disciplines of primary care was fundamental to his concept of general practice.

His desire to achieve the highest standards inspired him to look towards the postgraduate education of future general practitioners within their own discipline. At the time, junior hospital doctors rotated through specialties according to their choice and chance. Although there was a system of trainee assistants to individual general practitioners, this was not integrated with hospital medicine. There was no department of general practice in the region, so this was an exciting and creative time, a challenge which Tony grasped and took a full part in developing.

It took two years of discussion and planning with consultants to organise the first three year vocational training scheme in the south east of England. In 1972 Tony took up one of the two clinical assistantships created by the clinical tutor, which enabled him to take time out from his busy practice to teach and mentor doctors intending to generalise. He warmly welcomed his trainees, and they quickly learnt that general practice was a discipline in itself. Tony had a gift for group teaching, enabling members of the group to share their knowledge, skills, and attitudes, and to support one another in the face of criticism. He was an advocate of self directed learning and the importance of effective communication in general practice

Tony took an active part in the South East Thames Faculty of the Royal College of General Practitioners, serving successfully as secretary, chairman, and Provost. He became an examiner for the Royal College of General Practitioners' membership exam and took part in the development of the MRCGP examination nationally. In 1991 he was awarded the MBE for services to medicine.

Outside his commitment to medical learning, which was such an important part of his life, he was medical officer for Seven Springs, the Tunbridge Wells Cheshire Home, and enjoyed this role for many years. He was also an active committee member of the Tunbridge Wells Health Authority. During the 1970s he spent two weeks every year as a cruise ship doctor for the Fred Olsen line, going round the Canaries. Each year he took one or two of his children to join him on the ship.

In his “retirement” Tony kept active doing regular locums in the Tunbridge Wells area and was put in charge of clinical governance at the Hospice in the Weald in Pembury. When asked in the midst of his treatment for his last illness why he was still doing locums, he laughed and said “because I enjoy it.”

Tony was an enthusiastic member of the Tunbridge Wells Squash Racquets Club from the 1960s until his retirement from the game in the 1990s. He played bridge throughout his working life and latterly golf. Tony also loved walking and his walking ventures included the Pilgrim's Way in northern Spain, Offa's Dyke, both the North and South Downs Way, the Pennines, the Cornish coast, and Yorkshire Dales. A voracious reader, he was never content to stick to familiar territory, but often returned to his favourites, such as Isaiah Berlin.

Tony had a passion for travel, and in 2001 he took longer trips to Australia, where his eldest daughter lived, combining them with spells doing locums in rural practices in Western Australia. He relished the challenge of being the sole medical practitioner in extremely remote communities that had different requirements from those of Tunbridge Wells.

His life was characterised by his great interest and love for people that was accompanied by an open-minded acceptance of differences. These are some of the qualities that made him such a great doctor and led him to develop a wide circle of good friends. Tony leaves six children, 11 grandchildren, a sister, and many close friends.

Notes

Former general practitioner Tunbridge Wells (b 17 June 1932; q Guy's Hospital, London, 1955; MBE, DObstRCOG), d 5 November 2006.


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