Tribute to popular Burgess Hill doctor

Dr Ben Ross. Photo contributed.
Dr Ben Ross. Photo contributed.

One of Burgess Hill’s best-loved family doctors has died at the age of 89.

Belfast-born Dr Ben Ross opened his first Burgess Hill practice at a house in Junction Road in 1979 with only two patients on his roll.

He, his wife Heather and daughter Antonia lived ‘above the shop’ as the number of patients steadily grew to 3,000, reflecting the tremendous growth in housing the town had seen, making it at one time the fastest-growing town in Europe.

At first Heather, later to become a leading local councillor, managed the reception, until Jeanette Duly joined, beginning a long relationship with the surgery that continued after moves to London Road and finally to the newly established Meadows practice at Temple Grove, set up by Dr Ross with colleagues from The Brow surgery.

Phil Dennett, of Junction Road, Burgess Hill, whose son Steven, now 38 and living in the USA, was the first child born under the care of the Junction Road surgery said: “I always remember Ben had a good sense of humour and a direct but warm approach to patients, his softer version of the Belfast accent being reassuring during consultations.

“In many ways he was the epitome of the old-fashioned family doctor, and I mean that in the most positive sense. He was man of great honesty, kindness and humanity.”

Dr Ross, born on April 26, 1929, graduated from Queens University, Belfast in 1952.

He was one of three brothers, all of whom made a career in the health service. Oswald and Ben became GPs while Joe became a child psychiatrist.

The young Ben moved to England, gaining experience in medicine, surgery, neurosurgery, geriatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology before moving on to general practice as an assistant then as a single-handed GP.

In his leisure time, apart from enjoying family activities, he relaxed by being an active member of the Burgess Hill Rotary Club, becoming its president for a year, and he also attended jazz sessions at the local U3A group.

He loved reading and following the fortunes of Burgess Hill Town Football Club, for which he served as club doctor, and he enjoyed the most successful period in its history as it rose from being Sussex County League Champions several times to the more senior Ryman League Premier Division, since re-named the Bostick League Premier Division.

After retirement from full-time work in 1999 at the age of 70, Dr Ross worked as a locum until he developed heart failure at the age of 78.

He had been in declining health for the past few years, lately suffering from parkinson’s disease, and he died on Sunday, July 15, at Woodlands Nursing home in Silverdale Road, Burgess Hill.

Dr Ross leaves a widow Heather, daughter Antonia, sons Mikel and Edward, two daughters-in-law, one son-in-law and six grandchildren, brother Joe and his wife Helen.

The family said they wished to thank the medical and care staff who looked after Dr Ross in the last years of his life and were also grateful for the support of friends in a distressing and difficult time.

A private cremation has already happened.