THE founder of a West Swindon surgery is retiring after serving the same community for more than three decades.

Dr Peter Swinyard, 64, came to Swindon in 1985 and set up the Phoenix Surgery in Toothill 10 years later.

He said: “I’m really proud, I’ve done my best for 35 years for the people of West Swindon. It’s time to move on and retire now.

“The patients were so wonderful and the way they supported the practice is amazing.

“The practice is at the heart of the community.

“I’ll miss my patients, they have been central to what I have done. There is no practice without patients.

“I loved dealing with people, I found it fascinating. There’s an art to medicine – it is not a purely science discipline, it is just an interesting thing to do.

“The privilege of looking after people over generations has been extraordinary. I’m looking after the children of the people I looked after when they were inside their mum’s tummies.

“And following people for 35 years is quite remarkable, it doesn’t happen much these days.”

Dr Swinyard, who qualified in 1979 at St Thomas Hospital in London, was working at the Ashington House Surgery and Park Lane for 10 years when they were both one practice.

He then decided to leave the practice and set up his own.

He said: “It was exciting to have my own surgery, but it was really hard.

“I had to start again from scratch.

“When you work in a big practice a lot of things are done for you – all the HR, the employment stuff, and also where you get the equipment, where you get your contacts and all that sort of stuff,” said Dr Swinyard.

“But I had to sort of find it all again from scratch and I had to equip the surgery building.”

The 64-year-old said he has enjoyed the relationship he has built over the years with his patients.

“I had wonderful and loyal patients who helped me when we bought the surgery. I had a whole crowd of volunteers who came and helped me,” he said.

At the time, Dr Swinyard had to take out a loan of £350,000 to buy the building but he was struggling to fund medical equipment.

He added: “We had people raising funds in all sorts of wonderful ways for equipment that I couldn’t afford to buy otherwise.

“One of my lovely patients actually rode a bicycle from the surgery down to Bournemouth in one night to raise the fund for us.”

The GP went through hard times, especially due to financial issues.

He said: “Smaller practices like the one I had, have been particularly at risk.

"About four or five years ago the practice was at great risk and our practice manager left. We discovered there were debts that I didn’t know about and we were in difficulties.”

Dr Swinyard said he was living on savings and had to work around 60 hours per week to run the surgery.

He added: “And all the staff pulled together quite extraordinarily, and they all took on extra work without asking for anything extra.

“ I couldn’t pay myself for three or four months, so I worked without pay for several months, as I had done back in 1995 when I set the practice up.

"There was no money coming in, so I had enough to pay the staff but there was nothing left over for me. I just managed because I had to.”

The GP is planning to leave the practice in May.

“It took me a long time to decide to retire and now that I have made the decision,” Dr Swinyard said.

“I’m really quite content with the decision, it is time I think.

“I was getting more and more stressed with work, so I think it is time to retire.

“Now that I have made the decision, I’m really quite relaxed.”

Dr Swinyard is looking forward to focusing more on music and travelling.

He added: “I should be taking up my music again and trying to regain some skills I used to have, such as playing the piano.

“I should be going around in my motorhome and doing a bit more travel.

“I’m not planning to work again after I retire, but obviously quite a few of my patients are also my friends, so I will obviously keep up with them.

“You get to know people and some people become friends as well, and you have to keep a really clear wall between the doctor and being their friends.”

'I couldn't ask for a better doctor'

PATIENTS have heaped praise on Dr Peter Swinyard after he announced he is to retire this year.

Dr Swinyard founded Phoenix Surgery in 1995 and has since built strong relationships with his patients.

Mum-of-four Linda Yavuz from Toothill said: “Dr Swinyard is a brilliant family doctor. He knew all my children and me personally and continued to support the traditional role that a small local surgery knows their patients as a person not a stranger just walking into the surgery.

“He was outstanding when my son Paul died in a car accident aged 17. He supported my younger children to seek counselling and was there as a professional friend.

“We all survived the experience via CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). I am very thankful.”

Vanessa Parfitt from Tattershall said: “Dr Swinyard has always been straight down the line. He’ll tell you what you need to hear.

“I always know that if I just need to talk things through, he has the time to listen.

“His many years of experience mean he can often make a diagnosis when other doctors have been unsure."

“He will be very much missed but after his many years of service to the local community he deserves a long and happy retirement.”

Nicola Bond, from Grange Park, said: “Dr Swinyard has been my family doctor since I was a little girl – I am now 37.”

Nicola said Dr Swinyard supported her through her pregnancy when she was 18. She added: “ I was young, and he didn’t judge. I suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum and he was amazing.

“He’s honest and always there to help. I couldn’t ask for a better doctor and will really miss him in the surgery.”

IMH tenure was 'horrible' time

Retiring GP Peter Swinyard reflected on a 'horrible' spell close to the end of his career when call centre firm IMH took over Phoenix Surgery.

Dr Swinyard sold the practice to the Manchester-based business to rid himself of a big mortgage.

But it was beset by problems in the months that followed, with patients reporting long waits as they tried to make appointments.

Dr Swinyard said: “It was horrible. I ended up without a mortgage on it, which was necessary.

“At the start they were okay, but they took over all the other practices and it just became very difficult. Their management quality was really poor, they didn’t look after patients properly.”

Dr Swinyard said he felt powerless as there was nothing he could do to help.

He added: “We had a really rough time of it. The patients couldn’t get through on the phone, they couldn’t get appointments when they needed, our staff were being told they couldn’t take appointments for people who just walk in. They just completely ignored them.

“There was nothing much I could do about it. I was jumping up and down in the background trying to persuade them to run the practice properly, but it fell on deaf ears.”

Since December 1, the surgery managed by Park Lane Practice.

Dr Swinyard added: “The practice was finally taken over again last year and we carried on looking after the patients. It’s taking itself up now.”