The story behind The Wilson Health Centre

History of the Wilson Health Centre

Although we are a new building, the practices have each had a long journey individually and collectively to reach this point.  The idea of a new building was first raised back in about 2008 when a number of local Cheltenham practices were realising the constraints of their existing premises and considering the opportunities for much more practical and modern ways of working that come with a purpose built building.  Initially different practices were involved in the discussion as different potential sites around Cheltenham were evaluated.  Many options were rejected as being too far for existing patients to travel, too small to accommodate the needs of the practices or simply far too expensive.

It took several years and huge amounts of hard work, research and late night conversations between the three GP Practice Leads, Dr Jim Ropner, Dr Sanjay Shyamapant and Dr Phil Kurlbaum.  However eventually the right site, right timing and funding options aligned and the decision was made to proceed with the site at Prestbury Road.  The team were helped along the way by NHS England, the local Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, West Hart architects, BKBS Building and a range of planning and building experts.

However, in March 2020 just as work was due to start on the building, the coronavirus pandemic struck and everything had to be put on hold.  The whole health sector had extraordinary demands placed upon it during this time which required the dedicated focus of all those in involved in primary care. Construction commenced again in 2020 and work now continues apace.

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Edward Wilson

The Wilson Health Centre is named after Edward Wilson, the famous Antarctic Explorer.  Wilson is well known for his expeditions to Antarctica with fellow explorers Scott and Shackleton.

Wilson was born in Cheltenham in 1872 and spent most of his childhood here, living on a farm in Leckhampton and later educated at Cheltenham College, a school with which Berkeley Place Surgery has strong links.  Wilson studied Natural Sciences at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.  He later followed in his father’s footsteps and trained in medicine in London where he also provided medical support to dwellers of the slums in Battersea.  He contracted tuberculosis during his training and as part of his long convalescence in Norway and Switzerland, he spent much of his time sketching and painting.

He qualified as a doctor in 1900 and subsequently returned to Cheltenham and became a junior house surgeon at Cheltenham General Hospital. Shortly afterwards, with his passions in medicine, natural sciences and art, he was selected to join a team led by Robert Scott for the British National Antarctic Expedition on board the RRS Discovery.  His calmness, patience and objectivity was much valued by Scott and the two subsequently became good friends and spent many years on further polar expeditions.

Wilson died in Antartica in 1912 at the age of 40, shortly after he and his colleagues became the first British team to successfully reach the South Pole.

We have been lucky enough to have been gifted some Edward Wilson prints from the British Antarctic Monument Trust.  These will be on display in the Wilson Health Centre.

For more details about Edward Wilson, see here.