Doctor's star turn

IPSWICH hospital might be a far cry from the gritty realism of TVs ER, but behind its doors is a doctor with a star quality of his very own.


IPSWICH hospital might be a far cry from the gritty realism of TVs ER, but behind its doors is a doctor with a star quality of his very own.

Dr G Clunie, is used to raising a few eyebrows with a name almost mirroring that of George Clooney, however patients and colleagues have now recognised his true star potential by nominating him for a prestigious award.

Gavin Clunie, 41, a consultant rheumatologist, has been awarded the title of Midlands and East Anglia Hospital Doctor 2004 in the Health and Social Care Awards - in recognition of his battle to provide first-class medical care for people with the bone disease osteoporosis.

Tucked away behind the doors of the rheumatology department, this Dr Clunie's work is a long way from the glamour of the red carpets often walked by the other Mr G Clooney, but it is his hard work and dedication that has helped hundreds of patients on the road to recovery.

Jean Nunn, chairman of the Ipswich and Suffolk branch of the National Osteoporosis said: "Four or five years ago there were virtually no osteoporosis services at all.

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"People who felt they might have it had enormous difficulty getting a diagnosis and people who ended up in hospital with fractures, because of their osteoporosis, were patched up and sent home and nobody mentioned the 'O-word' at all.

"The improvement in services since then has been just brilliant."

What makes Dr Clunie's story even more incredible is that it was never his original intention to become a doctor. Before attending medical college he was a professional tennis player and regularly played doubles with former British number one Andrew Castle, who is now a presenter on GMTV.

Dr Clunie said: "Tennis was, and still is, a very big part of my life, but I was never quite good enough to continue professionally and decided to turn to medicine."

Dr Clunie trained in London and qualified in 1988. He continued to work in the capital until moving to Ipswich Hospital in 2000.

Over the course of the his four years at the hospital Dr Clunie has been a driving force in the efforts to bring a top-of-the-range bone density scanner to the department - a dream that was achieved in October last year with the arrival of a £65,000 DXA scanner.

The scanner can detect the early signs of osteoporosis, making prevention and care much more effective.

Mrs Nunn said: "If he had not been here and he had not made the case for the scanner our work as a support group was just going to get harder and harder. We are constantly telling people of the importance of coming and getting problems checked out, but if you haven't got the right equipment this is very hard."

Mr Clunie said: "It's a bit of a surprise to be nominated but it is nice to know the work we've been doing has been recognised.

"It's really been a joint effort from everyone in the department. We have a very good team all working together."

Dr Clunie will now go forward to the nationwide Health and Social Care Awards ceremony, which is being held in London on July 7 at the NHS Live Conference.