Catherine House Surgery

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History of the Practice

  • Over the centuries the townspeople of Totnes have experienced medical care delivered by a wide variety of individuals and institutions thereby making the task of tracing the true origins of Catherine House Surgery nothing less than a challenge. There is, however, a clear link to the early 1930s when Dr George Varian ran a single-handed practice from Duncliffe House in Bridgetown, opposite the then Cottage Hospital (a service still remembered to this day by some of our patients).

    Upon Dr Varian's retirement the practice passed into the hands of his assistant Dr Barry Shelmerdine who initially saw patients at his home of Seymour Cottage but then established a separate premises at 1 Somerset Place. He also ran a branch surgery at the neighbouring village of Harbertonford from the sitting room of a patient's house.

    On 22 December 1982 Dr Shelmerdine retired and the following day Dr Nick Cooper took over the practice list, at first seeing patients at 1 Somerset Place.

    In October 1983, following a search for his own suitable premises, Dr Cooper relocated across the River Dart to St Katherine's Way. The move also saw the creation of an innovative practice nurse post when Brenda Bunnell joined the team. Due to its popularity, the branch surgery at Harbertonford was also continued.

    As the practice list size grew it became clear that much larger premises would be required to offer the full range of healthcare services. Dr Cooper was also keen to provide training to the next generation of GPs and the existing surgery lacked the necessary number of consulting rooms for this to occur.

    Local property developer Carl Throgmorton of Westward Developments offered a piece of disused land on the corner where The Plains meets St Katherine's Way and in May 1987 the new surgery opened. In recognition of his enthusiastic help with the design and planning of the building it was assigned the name Catherine House, in memory of his late mother, and the practice took the name Catherine House Surgery. The original hand drawn logo of the surgery came from the architect Roy Creber.

    In 1988 concern was raised for the future of the Harbertonford branch surgery when the availability of the private home to hold consultations was lost. The vicar of St Peter's Church, the Reverend Peter Willis, suggested the vestry as an alternative venue - an offer at the time that caused something of a stir in the national press, much to the amusement of the villagers.In 1992 Dr Andrew Pettinger joined the practice following his local completion of GP training in Kingsbridge. Six years later, Dr Julie Franklin also became a permanent member having proven herself a popular registrar at the surgery in 1991.

    Two practice nurses, Julie Frost and Julie Smith, joined the ranks in 2006 and 2011 respectively.

    In January 2013, Dr James Cooper, son of Dr Cooper, became the latest addition thereby bringing the total number of practice doctors to four.

    While Catherine House Surgery strives to offer a modern, comprehensive and holistic healthcare service, we feel it is equally important to retain the personal family doctor touch and continuity of care for which both Dr Varian and Dr Shelmerdine were renowned.